Putin urges Russian voters to keep him in office until 2036
Vladimir Putin has exhorted fellow Russians to vote for a range of constitutional amendments that would also let him stay in office until 2036.
Standing before a new statue commemorating the efforts of Soviet soldiers in the second world war on the day before voting ends, Putin appealed to citizens’ patriotism and desire for stability. He did not mention the stark political implications the vote would have: resetting his term limits and allowing him to seek re-election twice more as president.
“I am sure that each of you, when making such an important decision, thinks first of all about your loved ones, and [your decision] is based on the values that unite us, which are truth and justice, respect for people of work, for older generations, family and care for children, their health, moral and spiritual education,” Putin said in the nationally broadcast address.
The amendments would “enshrine these values and principles among the highest, unconditional constitutional guarantees”, the president said, adding: “We can guarantee stability, safety, wellbeing and a decent life only through development, only together and only ourselves.”
The constitutional vote, an ad hoc plebiscite that is not quite a referendum, has seen a massive effort to get the vote out. Local governments have enticed voters with raffles and cash prizes to raise the turnout.
A state-owned pollster has already released a controversial exit poll claiming 76% of voters supported the amendments. The Kremlin is keen to have a high turnout in the vote, which culminates today, to show that Putin and his platform enjoy broad support.
Critics have attacked the plebiscite, which has continued for a week and has allowed online voting, saying it is impossible to monitor.
One video circulating on social media showed a family arriving at a polling station this week to discover they had all already voted, according to the official register. When they confronted the head of the polling station, she slammed the register shut, telling them to prove it.
Analysts have said polling numbers indicate the Kremlin’s desires rather than the reality at the ballot box.
VCIOM, the state-run pollster that released the exit polls, was lightly chastised for interfering in the ongoing vote, but not punished.
“I always said we should have a president for life,” the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, said yesterday, giving voice to the subtext of the vote. “Who can replace him? There’s no political leader of international standing. We should be proud of this.”