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Over 77% of Russians back constitutional amendments, 21% opposed – preliminary results

Over 77% of Russians back constitutional amendments, 21% opposed – preliminary results
After processing 99 percent of the ballots, the Russian Election Commission has announced that 77 percent of voters approved proposed changes to the constitution, while 21 percent were opposed. The turnout was 65 percent.

Millions of Russians went to the polls on Wednesday to cast their vote for or against 206 proposed amendments, which had already been approved by the legislature. This was preceded by five days of early voting since June 25 and even online voting in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod – all due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had delayed the vote from its originally scheduled date of April 22.

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Exit polls published after the voting ended showed that 71 percent had supported the amendments, while 28 percent were opposed. The tallies were based on more than 445,000 voters at 800 polling stations, with a 70 percent response rate.

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Widely reported in the West as giving President Vladimir Putin a chance to serve two more terms, the amendments are a sweeping set of changes to Russia’s basic law. The 1993 constitution was imposed by President Boris Yeltsin literally at gunpoint, after he sent tanks to shell the parliament.

While the presidential amendment could in theory allow Putin to run for office once his current term expires in 2024, it also includes a two-term limit and denies eligibility to persons who previously held foreign citizenship and lived in Russia for less than 25 years. Residents of Crimea, which was reabsorbed by Russia in 2014 are exempt from that residency requirement. Another amendment removes eligibility for most major government positions from those who hold foreign citizenship or residency permits.

Several amendments are dedicated to social issues, including a state guarantee of a minimum wage above subsistence level, indexation of pensions for inflation, defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and mention of God in relation to Russian heritage. Another amendment specifies that the Russian constitution takes primacy in cases where international treaties may be interpreted as conflicting with it.

There were 839 reports of violations during the week of voting, including 126 on Wednesday, according to Deputy Interior Minister Aleksandr Gorovoy, but he said they weren’t serious and didn’t affect the outcome of the vote. Several hundred people gathered in central Moscow to protest against the constitutional amendments.

The rally was held without a permit and also violated the ban on public gatherings introduced to stem the Covid-19 pandemic.

The demonstration was peaceful, and police officers were filmed handing out face masks to protesters and urging them to take care of their health. A similar event in St. Petersburg was attended by only several dozen people, amid bad weather. The demonstrators ignored calls by officers to disperse, but left after several street sweeper vehicles were sent to the area.

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