Russia Votes On Controversial Constitution Changes

Thursday, June 25, 2020 | Tag Cloud Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent

(Worthy News) – has begun a week-long vote on constitutional reforms that could allow President Vladimir to rule until 2036.

The delayed referendum was held amid concerns among critics of possible vote-rigging. Voting was scheduled for July 1, but authorities said they were opening polling stations earlier to prevent overcrowding in the ongoing pandemic.

Russians cast ballots a day after veterans in their nineties joined President Vladimir Putin for an extensive 75th anniversary Victory Day parade as if social distancing and facemasks were never invented.

The parade, remembering the end of World Two, underscored attempts by Putin to revive enthusiasm for policies of making Russia stronger amid his rapidly declining popularity.

Proposed amendments to be voted on include a change in the Russian Constitution that would allow the 67-year-old Putin to run for two more six-year terms after his current one expires in 2024.

He has already ruled Russia for over two decades but believes he is still needed to move Russia forward. Other changes would include improving social benefits, define marriage as a union of a man and a woman, and redistribute executive powers within the government, strengthening the presidency.

CRITICS CONCERNED

Prominent critics warned of possible manipulation and fraud during the referendum. But President Putin said that it was crucial to ensure “the results of the nationwide vote is absolutely veracious, legitimate.”

He stressed that voters shouldn’t be coerced and turnout shouldn’t be artificially inflated “so that afterward, no one can cast doubt on the position that the people will express.”

However, after polls opened Thursday, Putin’s main opposition rival Alexei Navalny published a video on social networking site of possible wrongdoing. It showed a polling station apparently inside the trunk of a car in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.

Navalny also posted a video of a tent with two poll workers in it and a small plastic ballot box. Navalny wrote sarcastically: “As you see, control is tight, rigging is impossible. Your vote may be of critical importance!”

Some warned that in Moscow, where online voting is allowed, registered voters were also able to vote at polling stations. The Central Election Commission rejected criticism of voting procedures.

And the controversy did little to raise concerns among crowds flooding Moscow parks, bars, and restaurant terraces. They were shrugging off weeks hiding indoors from coronavirus infection as an unpleasant memory. Yet, Russia is still claiming over 7,000 new confirmed infections a day. The nation also has the world’s third-highest reported caseload totaling 613,000 confirmed cases.

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