On July 2, Thursday, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) announced the results of the week-long referendum held on amendments to the 1993 Russian constitution. After counting of over 99% of all votes cast, the CEC declared that around 78% voters favored the amendments, while only 21% opposed it.
Among other implications, the amendments will allow president Vladimir Putin to rerun for the post in the next elections to be held in March 2024 and potentially stay on in power till 2036.
Polling on the referendum was conducted through June 25-July 1. The voting period was extended from a single day to a week in order to avoid crowding at the polling stations and maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Russia is currently the third worst-affected country with over 650,000 cases and over 9,500 deaths. Voters were allowed to cast their vote in specially organized voting areas, through their mobile phones, and online. According to official figures, the final voter turnout was 65%.
The amendments passed by the Russian parliament in March and subsequently by most of the State parliaments will now come into effect having achieved more than the minimum required 50% popular support in the referendum, reported the Russian news agency TASS.
Apart from the provisions related to limitations on the presidential term, the amendments include empowering the state Duma to appoint the prime minister and the cabinet, the strengthening of the Russian constitution whose laws will take precedence over international law, and empowering the Federation Council (upper house of parliament) to intervene in the removal of judges of the constitutional and supreme courts. The bill also proposes the consolidation of the status and role of the State Council, grants more powers to the constitutional court, along with the provision of minimum wage and the indexation of pensioners.
The amendments have been criticized by the Communist party of the Russian Federation and other left parties for their arbitrariness. The government’s lack of efforts to build a consensus on the amendments has also been criticized.