Russian President Vladimir Putin Photograph:( Reuters )
Russia's Central Elections Commission announced early on Thursday that about 78 per cent of people had voted in favour of constitutional changes
Russians have cleared the way for President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036 as they voted in huge numbers to approve the controversial constitutional amendments, with opposition and Western countries suspecting poll violations.
Russia's Central Elections Commission announced early on Thursday that about 78 per cent of people had voted in favour of constitutional changes.
Putin thanked the people for showing their support, saying the country needs "internal stability and time" to strengthen itself and its institutions.
"Thank you very much for your support and trust," Putin said in a televised address.
"Very little time has passed since the break-up of the Soviet Union," he said, adding "we need internal stability and time to strengthen the country and its institutions".
The voting began last week on the constitutional changes proposed by the Russian president earlier this year, which includes increasing the limit of the presidential term, which will let Putin contest twice again after his current six-year term ends in 2024.
Other changes strengthen presidential and parliamentary powers, revitalise traditional values, which includes an effective ban on gay marriage and guarantee better minimum wages and pensions.
The United States expressed its concerns over attempts to "manipulate" the ballot, and the European Union (EU) asked Russia to investigate reports of voting "irregularities".
Main opposition leader Alexei Navalny also condemned the poll, saying it set "a record in faking votes" and the result had "nothing in common with people's views."
(With inputs from AFP)