Coronavirus may delay Russian public vote on Putin’s term limits
Russia may be forced to put off a public vote on amendments allowing Vladimir Putin to hold office until 2036 as the coronavirus threatens to upend a busy political season in the country.
The Kremlin has yet to reschedule a 22 April vote intended as public endorsement for his surprise plan to “reset” presidential term limits, allowing him to run for a fifth and even sixth term under a revised constitution.
But as Moscow and other Russian cities ramp up preventive measures against Covid-19, election officials have discussed the possibility of home voting to pull off a plebiscite in a country of 140 million as health officials try to reduce social contact.
“The vote is set for 22 April, but the health of the country’s citizens is most important,” said Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. “If the growth of the epidemiological situation gives cause to reschedule then it will be done.”
The business daily Vedomosti reported yesterday that the vote would probably be rescheduled to June. One of its sources said the current date for the vote could coincide with the projected peak for cases in Russia.
The spread of the disease could also threaten Russia’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of Victory Day on 9 May, at which the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and US national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, were due. The event serves as both a memorial to second world war veterans and a showcase for its military hardware.
Russian officials said yesterday they had identified 71 new cases of Covid19, bringing the total to 438 people, with 262 in Moscow. The country has closed its borders to most foreigners.
The pandemic coincides with one of the most consequential political seasons in Russia since 2014, as Putin laid the groundwork this month to potentially become the longest serving ruler since the tsars, exceeding even Stalin. Public health measures have also had a chilling effect on protests, with bans on gatherings of more than 50 people.
▲ Vladimir Putin could run for a fifth or sixth term as Russia’s president