Nearly 78% of Russian voters back constitutional reforms

Nearly 78 per cent of Russian voters backed constitutional reforms that could keep President Vladimir Putin in power until 2036, election officials said on Thursday.

With all the ballots counted, 77.9 per cent voted for the reform package and 21.3 per cent against, the BBC quoted the electoral commission as saying.

According to the officials, turnout among the 109 million eligible voters was 65 per cent.

The highest levels of support – above 90% – were in Crimea, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, in Chechnya in the North Caucasus, and Tuva, in Siberia.

In New York 816 voted at the Russian consulate and 505 rejected the reforms, while 310 voted for.

The other voting district where a majority were against was Nenets, in Russia’s remote Arctic.

The final results showed 65 per cent voted yes to the reforms in Moscow, and 77.6 per cent in St Petersburg.

More than 45 per cent of the registered voters – some 49 million citizens – cast early votes in the nationwide ballot, according to authorities, which extended the voting period by a week to prevent crowds at the polling stations and a possible outbreak of COVID-19.

The reforms will reset Putin’s term limits to zero in 2024, allowing him to serve two more six-year terms, said the BBC report.

Putin, aged 67, has not said he will run again for the presidency when his latest term runs out in 2024 – but has said it is vital he has the option to do so.

He has been in power in Russia, either as president or prime minister, for 20 years.

But several hundred opponents of the constitutional changes staged protests in Moscow and St Petersburg in response to the results.

Top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny described the results as a “big lie” which did not reflect real public opinion in the country.

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