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Russians Set to Back Reforms Allowing Putin To Extend His Rule

Russians Set to Back Reforms Allowing Putin To Extend His Rule
folder_openRussia access_timeone month ago
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By Staff, Agencies

Russians looked set Wednesday to overwhelmingly approve constitutional changes that will allow President Vladimir Putin to extend his two-decade rule until 2036.

Early results from six days of national voting that ends Wednesday showed more than 70 percent of Russian voters backing the reforms, which critics have denounced as a maneuver to allow Putin to potentially stay in the Kremlin for life.

The results were from just over seven percent of polling stations in the country's less-populated east, the election commission said, and were released as voters continued to cast ballots in western areas including Moscow.

The commission said nationwide voter turnout was at 63 percent as of 15:00 GMT.

The changes were passed weeks ago by Russia's parliament and copies of the new constitution are already on sale in bookshops, but Putin has said voter approval is essential to give them legitimacy.

The reforms include conservative and populist measures - like guaranteed minimum pensions and an effective ban on gay marriage - but crucially for Putin will also reset presidential limits allowing him to run twice again after his current six-year term expires in 2024.

The Kremlin pulled out all the stops to encourage turnout, with polls extended over nearly a week, the last day of voting declared a national holiday and prizes - including apartments and cars - on offer to voters.

Initially planned for April 22, the referendum was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic but rescheduled after Putin said the epidemic had peaked and officials began reporting lower numbers of new cases.

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