Russian voters overwhelmingly back Putin's reform plan to rule until 2036

WION Web Team Moscow, Russia Jul 02, 2020, 07.09 AM(IST)

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference call Photograph:( Reuters )

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With just over 85 per cent ballots counted in Russia after the end of seven days of voting, 77.8 per cent of voters supported the consitutional reforms during the nationwide vote backing President Putin, according to election commission figures.

Russians overwhelmingly approved a package of constitutional changes in a nationwide vote, partial results showed Wednesday, allowing President Vladimir Putin to potentially extend his two-decade rule until 2036.

With just over 85 per cent of ballots counted after the end of seven days of voting, 77.8 percent of voters had supported the reforms during the election, according to election commission figures cited by Russian state agencies. 

There had been little doubt of voters backing the changes, which Putin announced earlier this year and critics denounced as a manoeuvre to allow him to stay in the Kremlin for life.

The amendments had been passed weeks ago by Russia's parliament and copies of the new constitution were already on sale in bookshops, but Putin had said voter approval was essential to give them legitimacy.

The reforms include conservative and populist measures like guaranteed minimum pensions and an effective ban on gay marriage but crucially for Putin also reset presidential limits allowing him to run twice again after his current six-year term expires in 2024.

The Kremlin pulled out all the stops to encourage voting, with polls extended over nearly a week, the last day of voting declared a national holiday and prizes -- including apartments, cars and cash -- on offer to voters.

Initially planned for April 22, the referendum was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic but rescheduled after Putin said the epidemic had peaked and officials began reporting lower numbers of new cases.