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Putin’s 20 tumultuous years in power
June 16, 2020 - Russians will vote on July 1 to approve or reject constitutional reforms that will allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power if re-elected until 2036 instead of stepping down in 2024.
On March 16, Russia’s Constitutional Court approved amendments proposed by President Putin to the country’s laws, paving the way for him to become president for life effectively.
Russia’s Communist Party has launched a campaign urging supporters to vote against the amendments. All 43 members of the Communist Party in the Russian parliament voted against the provision.
Alexei Navalny, an outspoken critic of Putin, has urged Russians to boycott the vote. “There is an epidemic going on in the country. Voting is unsafe; therefore it’s immoral to call supporters to the polls,” Navalny said, according to the Meduza news website.
On June 6, after more than two months of lockdown, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin lifted coronavirus restrictions amid suggestions that Kremlin politics lay behind his decision.
In another bid to entice voters, Moscow’s city government is organising a raffle for two million gift certificates for those turning out to vote.
Kremlin strategists have framed the July 1 plebiscite as “a celebration of victory” over the pandemic. However, since the end of lockdown, Russia has seen a surge of more than 78,380 Covid-19 cases. Moscow is the epicentre.
Last July, protests broke out in Moscow over government corruption. They followed five consecutive years of falling real incomes, a five-year rise in the pension age and a VAT rate hike to 20 per cent.
Fuelled by heavy criticism of his handling of the pandemic, Putin’s approval rating has hit a historic low of 59 per cent, according to the independent Levada Center polling agency. The Kremlin predicts a turnout of 55 per cent and expects six in 10 voters to approve the amendments.
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