Putin plans to start the clock on his new reign in power on July 1 – how, and what are the chances he’ll succeed?
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced July 1 as the scheduled date of the vote to amend the country’s constitution, which if approved by the majority, would enable him to remain in power until 2036.
However, more and more experts agree that the real threats Putin is facing is the virus and low ratings.
What do the amendments entail?
Russian citizens are invited to express their opinions on various constitutional amendments during the July 1, 2020 vote, one of which seeks to define the special status of Russian within the law as the “state-forming” language.
For the first time in a hundred years, God will also be mentioned in the constitution.
Also, marriage in Russia will now be defined as “the union between a man and a woman.”
But the amendment which has attracted the greatest amount of attention both in Russia and abroad pertains to presidential terms.
If it is approved, Vladimir Putin will be able to legally stay in power until 2036.
Voting at all costs
The procedure Russian citizens must use when expressing their opinions on the proposed amendments is unprecedented:
• They will be able to vote from home, by mail, or online.
• Voting booths will be erected in the streets.
• Voting booths will be open for a full week.
• There is no turnout threshold – the vote will be considered legal for any number of participants.
Vladimir Putin’s campaign in support of the amendments is also quite unprecedented.
The very first video aired on Russian television provoked a massive scandal.
In it, two gay men adopt a boy from an orphanage and offer him a woman’s dress to wear as a voice off camera asks, “Is this the Russia you want to see?”
This video was made by Patriot T.V. studio, which is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a friend of Vladimir Putin and a man with a criminal past.
Why is Putin in such a rush?
Vladimir Putin’s current presidential term expires in 2024. Three years before this happens, he is suddenly proposing constitutional amendments that ensure him a practically lifelong rule.
The word “suddenly” is barely sufficient to express what really happened. The amendment process can practically be considered a hurricane.
Putin proposed the amendments on December 15, 2019, and in just 2 weeks, they had gained full support from the regional and federal parliament, the constitutional commission and the constitutional court.
If not for the coronavirus pandemic, a popular vote would have taken place on April 22, 2020.
No one knows exactly why Vladimir Putin is in such a hurry. There are two possible reasons being discussed:
• The first is that the Russian president is seriously ill, and he urgently needs to pave the way for his successor.
Whoever he is, this person will not enjoy the same popularity as Putin at the beginning of his reign. Therefore, he will need constitutional “props” in order not to lose power.
• The second is that Putin himself needs these backup assurances because he knows that his real approval rating (the one not propped up by propaganda) is about 25 percent.
The recent scandal between the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bloomberg agency, which published Putin’s approval rating at 27 percent, supports the latter possibility. The ministry demanded an apology. The agency referred to data from the official Russian sociological service, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM).