Fri 03 July 2020:

Amendments into Russia’s constitution comes into effect on July 4

MOSCOW (AA) – Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law constitutional amendments allowing him to remain in power through 2036.

The changes become effective from July 4, according to the decree published on the presidential website.

Putin thanked Russians for the vote, saying it showed “high degree of solidarity on the key issues”, urging the government and officials at all levels to implement the changes in full.

Earlier on Friday, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) approved the results of the vote on constitutional amendments.

According to the CEC more than 109 million voters were registered in Russia and abroad to take part in the vote, over 74 million or 67.97% cast their ballots, and 77.92% voted for the changes, while 21.27% opposed them.

– Reset button

Russia’s constitution allows for two consecutive terms for the president, but the amendments would hit the reset button, allowing Putin two additional possible six-year terms.

Asked if he might stay in power that long, Putin – the country’s ruler for two decades, alternating as president or prime minister – said that “he did not exclude anything,” citing the need to maintain political stability.

Without the changes, he warned, “instead of normal rhythmic work at many levels of government, eyes will start searching for possible successors. It is necessary to work and not search for successors.”

Other constitutional changes give the Russian government and parliament broader powers.

Requirements for candidates for public office also grew stricter: they are prohibited from holding foreign passports, residency, or overseas bank accounts, while candidates for president also have to have lived in Russia for at least 25 years.

The amendments anchor the constitution taking precedence over international agreements, ban any action threatening Russia’s territorial integrity, and also draw the line on traditional values, such as forbidding same-sex marriage.

The “social bloc” of amendments gives pension an annual raise, sets a minimum wage lower than the subsistence minimum, give support for parenthood and childhood, and promotes a “responsible” attitude to animals.

– Yea or nay

Russia’s opposition protested the changes, accusing the administration of trying to extend Putin’s lengthy tenure.

The large number of amendment offered collectively under an “all up or down” format also drew fire, denying voters a chance to approve of some changes while rejecting others.

The opposition also decried the absence of a minimum turnout for a vote on constitutional changes.

Despite a ban on campaigning, instructional leaflets by the CEC also came under fire, as they told the public to vote “for” rather than “on” the changes, with the word “for” in red.

A lottery for all voters in the referendum was also criticized for artificially inflating turnout.

There were too few observers at too many polling sites, some in such unusual places as car trunks, the opposition also said.

Asked about criticisms on the vote, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow “is aware but not ready to take it into account”.

By Elena Teslova / Anadolu Agency

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