Russian citizens in Estonia vote on reforms extending Putin's rule to 2036

Voting at the Russian Consulate in Tallinn.
Voting at the Russian Consulate in Tallinn. Source: ERR

Wednesday was the last day of voting in a referendum on constitutional reforms in Russia, which, among other things, will allow for President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036. Russian citizens outside of the Russian Federation, including in Estonia, were entitled to vote in the referendum.

Voting in Tallinn was opened in two locations at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Tallinn, theoretically giving irresponsible citizens the chance to vote twice, it is reported.

Sergei Nalobin, minister-counsellor at the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, where citizens could cast their vote, said: "I do not think there will be any danger of double votes. Besides, we are warning voters of administrative responsibility, which may result if the voting procedure is violated."

More than 2,500 Russian citizens voted in Tallinn alone.

Irina, a voter in Tallinn, told ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera": "I've read the reforms and I agree with all of them in essence. Especially with those that strengthen Russia. For example, the reforms regarding marriage."

Other conservative-leaning reforms include a ban on same-sex marriages and introduce a reference to Russia's ancestral "faith in God."

Galina, another voter, said: "He's already 68 years old. He won't stay in power until he's 100, I think. But he's needed now. There were positive changes in Russia during his term. I think he should stay in power going forward, until an heir to the throne comes."

Putin has been in power for 20 years, starting in 2000, including a term as prime minister in 2008-2012. The main proposed reform would reset Putin's term limits to zero from 2024, allowing him to serve two more six-year terms, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Wednesday.

Despite concerns voiced from opposition politicians such as Alexei Navalny, the reforms seem to have the backing of a majority of the Russian populace.

With about 98 percent of ballots counted, more than 78 percent of voters backed the measures, the country's electoral commission said. There was no independent scrutiny of the seven-day voting period, which started on June 25 and reflects the vast scale of Russia in both land area and population; copies of the new constitution appeared in bookshops during the week, i.e. ahead of its being ratified, according to the BBC.

Putin's opposition reported a number of violations in both the preliminary voting and the vote on Wednesday but the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation has said these statements are false and do not affect results.

Ella Pamfilova, chair of the Central Election Commission, said: "There are no violations. I checked - there have been no serious violations that would force the commission's work group or the commission itself to intervene. I do not want to confirm yet but there has been nothing that would prove it. The number of appeals of violations has been minimal and we are monitoring it very closely."

Both chambers in the Russian parliament, the Duma, had already adopted the changes, but President Putin ordered a public vote in a bid to legitimize them. This was delayed from April due to the coronavirus outbreak.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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