Op-ed: Russia has tired of Putin. But what can it do?
Russia will hold a historic vote on July 1 on constitutional amendments, one of the main points of which is the so-called ‘zeroing down’ of the presidential term, which would essentially reset the number of terms Putin has run to zero.
Since he has already been in office for two terms, per the current constitution he can no longer run for the position.
If the amendment goes through, Putin will be able to remain in power, theoretically, until 2036.
Well-known Russian sociologist Grigory Yudin says the authorities are coercing the population into voting for the changes, but the situation in the country has changed, and the status quo no longer works for most people. There are ways to resist, says Yudin.
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Key proposed amendments and referendum conditions:
- Marriage in Russia will be defined as the “union of man and woman”
- The Russian language will be deemed the ‘state-forming language’
- Russia will have the right not to fulfill its international obligations
- President Putin will receive the opportunity to remain head of state until 2036
- The changes will be presented as one package, and voters will not be able to vote for each of the points separately
- Observers and journalists will not be allowed at polling stations
Don’t simply come out to vote: bring a few friends
The fate of the plebiscite on the amendments is being decided right now, these days and hours, long before the start of voting.
The pressure on people in the country this time has reached a whole new level. Doctors, teachers, officials, employees are subject to direct blackmail. For the first time, along with the demand to come out to vote, a demand to ‘bring three or four people along’ is also being voiced.
The reason for this is very simple. Putin has put forward a new demand: to provide more than 50 percent of the vote in favor of the entire population. This is likely at least 15% higher than people who are actually ready to support Putin’s lifelong presidency.
The authorities do not even have the money to buy these votes.
The country has changed a lot over the past two years. It is tired of Putin, it doesn’t need Putin forever.
Therefore, their only chance is to physically force tens of millions of people to vote and remain silent about what they were forced to do.
The more protests – the lower the risk of punishment
In this regard, there is one weak point. It can only work if those who are forced to vote will remain silent.
If right now at least a few dozen people directly and publicly publish posts with names and an indication of their places of work, and write that they are being forced to vote – this whole plan will crumble to dust.
Every post on social media can now radically change the situation.
Is there any risk in this? There is. Could revenge follow? It could. But the more such public statements, the lower the risk of revenge.
Actually, this is the only way we will find out whether Putin has overstepped or not, and whether there are enough people for whom his life-long rule has become untenable.
The fact is that the more public statements there are, the lower the risk of revenge. If there are fifty of them, this risk will be zero.
You can’t vote against, you can only boycott
This referendum is different in that there will not even be a theoretical opportunity to monitor its results. There will be no independent observers who fight for every vote. And voters, most likely, will be forced to photograph the completed ballot and present a photograph.
The largest manifestation of cynicism of what is happening is that the violence is now being applied to those people whom this system exploits the most – teachers, doctors, lower-level officials. They are not allowed to do what they would like to do: to serve the people.
Whether this has got to them already, we will see.