Putin urges Rus­sian vot­ers to keep him in of­fice un­til 2036

The Guardian - - World - Andrew Roth

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.”

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