Russians vote on extending Putin’s rule until 2036

Moscow: A vote on amendments to Russia’s constitution that could allow President Vladimir Putin to hold power until 2036 entered its final day on Wednesday amid widespread reports of pressure on voters and other irregularities.
For the first time in Russia, polls were open for a week to bolster turnout without increasing crowds casting ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic a provision that Kremlin critics denounced as an extra tool to manipulate the outcome.
Putin is all but guaranteed to get the result he wants following a massive state propaganda campaign and the opposition’s failure to mount a coordinated challenge. Ironically, the plebiscite aimed at consolidating Putin’s grip could end up eroding his position because of the unconventional methods used to boost participation and the dubious legal basis for the balloting.
By Wednesday morning, the overall turnout already exceeded 55 per cent, according to election officials, and kept climbing through the day to reach almost 90% of eligible voters in some regions. After polls closed in Russia’s Far East, eight time zones ahead of Moscow, officials quickly reported early results showing over 70 per cent of voters backing the changes.
Kremlin critics and independent election observers questioned official figures. (AP)

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