According to official preliminary results published around 78 percent voted yes to the amendments, versus 21 percent against. Turnout was about 65 percent. The amendments will “reset” the two-term presidential limit to zero, allowing Putin to run for another two six-year, consecutive mandates after his current term ends in 2024. He has already led Russia for more than two decades, as either president or prime minister. Putin has said he is yet to decide whether he would run again. If he does run in the next elections, set for 2024 and 2030, he could be in charge longer than any ruler since Peter the Great, including Joseph Stalin. By the time of the 2036 election, Putin would be 83. The outcome of the election was never in doubt: Copies of Russia’s new constitution went on sale in bookstores days before the results were known.
Voting took place amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, with some polling stations set up in parks and other outdoor locations. There were reports of widespread irregularities including inconsistent tallies of results, and voters being pressured to go to the polls to increase turnout. Late last month, Putin ordered a one-off payment of 10,000 roubles to be made to those with children under 16, with the cash starting to flow into bank accounts on polling day Wednesday. As is now customary in Russia, polling stations held raffles and competitions with prizes, while companies were asked to boost their employees’ turnout and given the ability to check whether their workers voted, Reuters reported.
Russia also issued 500,000 new passports and 29,000 temporary certificates to allow more people to vote, First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Alexander Gorovoy said in a statement on Twitter. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny called the results “fake and an enormous lie” and the vote “invalid, illegal,” in a statement. “We will never recognize this result,” he added. Navalny called for his supporters to take to the streets in September when he said the peak of the coronavirus pandemic should have passed. “What Putin fears most,” Navalny said, “is the street,” calling for “hundreds of thousands and millions” to protest.
Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) said it had received 7,196 complaints from citizens about the vote, 591 of them on election day. The CEC considered 92 percent of all the complaints, but none required consideration at a meeting of the commission, it said. The vote was originally set for April but was postponed due to the pandemic. The ballot was stretched out over seven days, culminating on Wednesday, as a preventative measure at a time when Russia has been reporting thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day.