Putin granted right to rule until 2036

In landslide vote, Russians effective paved the way for president to stay in power for life

Russians appeared to have paved the way for Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036 by voting overwhelmingly for a package of constitutional changes, initial results of a nationwide vote showed. Partial results, announced five hours before polls closed, indicate the former KGB officer who has ruled Russia for more than two decades will win the right to run for two more terms. That means he could remain president for 16 more years.

The Central Election Commission said just over 70% of votes counted had supported changing the constitution. Almost 29% had voted no. Russians have been encouraged to vote with prize draws offering flats and an ad campaign highlighting other constitutional amendments in the same reform bundle, such as the pensions protection and a de facto ban on same-sex marriages, Reuters reported.

One-off payments of 10,000 roubles ($141) were transferred to those with children at Putin’s order as people headed to polling stations on Wednesday, the last day of the vote, held over seven days to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Turnout had reached nearly 60% by midday, election officials said. The required turnout is 50% and the amendments will pass if they are backed by a simple majority of voters.

Putin made no mention of how the changes could affect his own career in an eve-of-vote speech on Tuesday. They would allow him to run for another two six-year, consecutive stints after his current term expires in 2024. Putin has said he has yet to decide on his future. Critics say they are sure he will run again, but some analysts say he may want to keep his options open to avoid becoming a lame duck. At 60%, according to the Levada pollster, his approval rating remains high but well down on its peak of nearly 90%.

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