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Russia votes to pass law with loophole letting Putin to rule to 2036

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  • Russians voted to approve 206 constitutional amendments on Thursday, many of which were presented as a boost to parliament power and limit presidents.
  • But one amendment, hidden down the list, removes the two-consecutive-term limit placed on sitting presidents.
  • This means that President Vladimir Putin, whose term is to end in 2024, would be able to run two more times in 2024 and 2030. If he wins both elections, he could rule until he is 83.
  • Parliament already approved the law in March, but observers say Putin wanted a public referendum to give the impression that he was popular.
  • One election watchdog said the seven-day public vote bears unmistakable signs of “rigging.”
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Russians have voted to pass 206 constitutional amendments, most of which ostensibly serve to limit presidential power. But among them is a cynical loophole that could keep President Vladimir Putin in power until 2036.

In January, Putin proposed a number of amendments to the Russian constitution, which has rarely been altered since it came into law in 1993. The Russian parliament had already voted to pass the bill in March, but Putin wanted a public referendum to signal his popularity.

The Associated Press (AP) reported late Wednesday that with 75% of all precincts counted, 77.6% have voted to pass the amendments.

The new amendments ranged from giving parliament more powers, to officially banning gay marriage.

But among them is one amendment that resets the clock on incumbent presidents’ tenures — meaning presidents like Putin, who has already served two terms, can bypass the current two-term limit and run again right way.

The amendment was proposed hours before the parliamentary vote in March by Valentina Tereshkova, a member of the Russian State Duma and former cosmonaut who was the first woman in space.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 01: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY â MANDATORY CREDIT - " KREMLIN PRESS OFFICE / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive to cast his vote at the polling station No. 2151, located in the building of the Russian Academy of Sciences, during the main voting day on constitutional changes in Moscow, Russia on July 01, 2020. (Photo by Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

President Vladimir Putin casting his vote at the polling station No. 2151 in Moscow, Russia, on July 1, 2020.

Kremlin Press Office


Putin, who is now 67, completed his first two consecutive terms between 1999 to 2008, whereupon his protégé, Dmitri Medvedev, was elected. Putin became prime minister, but effectively continued to run the country.

After that, Putin was reelected as president in 2012, and then again in 2018. (Medvedev had also extended the presidential term limit to six years in 2008.)

Putin’s current term is due to end in 2024. But now, under the amendment, he could run again in 2024 and 2030 — and, if he wins, be 83 years old by the time he eventually steps down.

He said he is yet to decide if he will run, but over the last year his popularity has taken a dive, most recently over Russia’s handling of its coronavirus outbreak.

Critics say the public vote on the amendment was a vanity project meant to show Russians that their compatriots are firmly behind Putin.

The public didn’t need to vote on the amendments for them to become law, as the national parliament and High Court had approved the amendments in March.

FILE - In this June 24, 2020, file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he leaves Red Square after the Victory Day military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in Moscow, Russia. Putin is just a step away from bringing about the constitutional changes that would allow him to extend his rule until 2036. The vote that would reset the clock on Putin’s tenure in office and allow him to serve two more six-year terms is set to wrap up Wednesday, July 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool, File)

Putin gestures as he leaves Red Square after a Victory Day military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in Moscow on June 24, 2020.

Associated Press


“Putin lacks confidence in his inner circle and he’s worried about the future,” Gleb Pavlovsky, a former consultant to the Kremlin, told the AP. “He wants an irrefutable proof of public support.”

Critics have described the vote as a sham, a constitutional coup, and an example of presidential chest-beating.

Golos, a Russian election monitor, said its evaluation of the election suggested that “rigging” was widespread, the AP said.

Alexei Navalny, a vocal critic and opponent of Putin, said: “We’ll never recognize this result,” according to Reuters.

The AP said that the government was handing out gift certificates, cars, and apartments to tempt people into voting. Russians living in Ukraine were ferried back across the border to vote, the AP said.

Several Russian influencers and bloggers have claimed that they were offered as much as $100,000 to post content in support of Putin. Many said they refused, however, saying that support for the Kremlin could dent their public image.

The seven-day public vote was initially scheduled to start on April 22, but it was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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