Russia starts vote on constitutional changes

Source : 112 Ukraine

Russians are voting on changes that would allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036
12:13, 25 June 2020

President of the Russian Federation

Russia, that is still in the clutches of a coronavirus pandemic, is holding a vote to change the constitution. On June 25 kicked off one week in which Russian citizens will cast their votes on far-reaching changes to the document. This was reported by DW agency.

The alterations will most likely be approved. Despite sinking popularity, Russian President Vladimir Putin still has a firm hold over a large and stable base of supporters, as the agency states.

According to the law as it stands today, Putin would have to step down in 2024, after the completion of his second six-year term. 

Putin is attempting to impose constitutional changes that would create an exception to existing rules and allow him to run for another two terms as president. Even though he has said he is not sure if he will even run, the change would let him remain in power until 2036.

All other candidates, however, would be limited to serving only two terms in total.

Russia is a country where a presidential system that gives the head of state far-reaching powers. But the proposed changes would grant even greater scope of powers to the president. New changes propose that the president may "direct the general work of the government." The government itself would no longer have any say about what direction the country is heading. Its only function would be to "organize work" on the president's initiative.

The official referendum website makes no mention whatsoever of Putin's electoral exception. Instead, the site prefers to emphasize the wealth that constitutional changes will supposedly bring the Russian people.

Related: Russia to vote on Putin's amendments to constitution on July 1

The state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, for instance, wrote of "welfare rights" like better worker protections and affordable healthcare. 

The authors of the referendum attempt to score points with conservative and right-wing nationalist voters by emphasizing "family values." These values dictate that marriage is solely a union between a man and a woman, children are to be made the government's top priority, and the country's youth given a "patriotic" upbringing. The Russian language, too, will be permanently anchored in the constitution as the "language of the nation's people."

The revised constitution is also intended to protect Russia from "damaging" decisions handed down by international courts. In the future, international law will not be given priority in Russia — and not even applied in instances where the Russian Constitutional Court declares it to be in conflict with Russian law.

According to the agency, Moscow could, for instance, be confronted with the fact that the Russian military shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 — killing all 298 people onboard. Most of those killed were from the Netherlands. Currently, four individuals — three of them Russian — are on trial before a district court in The Hague, Netherlands, over the incident.

A civil lawsuit against Russia is also on the docket at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). With a changed constitution Russia would no longer acknowledge the legal authority of the ECHR or any of its verdicts. 

Related: Russia’s new amendments to Constitution to prevent Crimea’s return to Ukraine

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