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Referendum extends Putin’s potential rule until 2036

The Kremlin has won a controversial vote to reset Vladimir Putin’s term limits, taking Russia one step closer to a complete dictatorship.

A nationwide vote this week in Russia has ratified constitutional reforms proposed by President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin pseudo-government. A package of constitutional amendments was passed that includes, among other things, a clause permitting Putin to run again for the presidency in 2024, potentially taking his Presidency up to the year 2036.

With a 68% turnout of the population, 78% of participants were in favour.

After a week-long theatrical performance directed by the Kremlin, where voters experienced an unceasing propaganda campaign, citizens overwhelmingly approved a long list of changes to the 1993 Russian constitution. Though Russians had been sold the illusion that the reforms shore up the modernisation of their vast nation, in reality the vote was a power-play by Putin that shoehorned in a number of regressive and bizarre stipulations to the constitution, such as the confirmation that marriage is a purely heterosexual union.

Russian voters back reform allowing Putin to extend rule

The fact that this proposition was ever put to the people of Russia denotes that we are now nearing the end of Vladimir Putin’s transformation into the nation’s absolute dictator. It’s a slippery slope that the North Atlantic block and North America has (mostly) begrudgingly ridden with the Kremlin almost every step of the way, even as Putin has stripped Russia’s faux democracy garb increasingly blatantly. The confirmation of a vote in favour confirms that the Russian propaganda machine is as slick as ever.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called the vote ‘a triumphal referendum on confidence in President Putin.’ He continued, ‘It was very difficult to predict the extremely high turnout and the extremely high support we have seen today.’

Actually, the high turnout and overwhelmingly favourable result was completely predictable. Polling data from both Kremlin-friendly and independent polling agencies suggested a comfortable win for the ‘yes’ vote, to the point where bookshops in Moscow had started selling a version of the constitution with Putin’s reforms already added.

Despite this, many anti-Putin protesters, who are mostly situated in the cultural hubs of the country St Petersburg and Moscow, have claimed that election was rampant with fraud. Officials, of course, have denied these reports.

The public face of the ad-hoc referendum (that didn’t actually fulfil the constitutional requirements to be labelled a referendum) was a package of amendments that included pension and minimum wage boosts, a modest reorganisation of government, a constitutional mention of ‘faith in God’, and a more stringent ban on gay marriage. The stipulation about Putin’s term limits was slipped in under the fine print.

There was a palpable restlessness during the campaign among younger Russians for whom Putin has been the only ruler they’ve known. Yury Dud, 33, whose YouTube interviews of celebrities have a mass following, described the vote as ‘an embarrassment’ via Instagram in a comment that garnered over 1m likes.

But the torrent of brazen democratic abuses that pour out of the Putin regime is unlikely to stop anytime soon. The main stalwart of defence against the perennial ‘wild-card’ that is Russia, NATO, has stood relatively impotent whilst Putin has committed a range of power-hungry atrocities over the past decade. Putin’s government has annexed Crimea, inflamed civil wars in neighbouring Ukraine as well as in Syria, Libya, and Yemen to increase Russian influence, poked the bear in the Middle-Eastern stand-off between Iran and Afghanistan, and, most recently, organised hits on American soldiers operating in Afghani territory alongside the Taliban.

Of course, the official statement from the Kremlin, and, worryingly, from the White House on this remains: ‘no collusion.’

An effective abolition of term limits means that the last vestiges of democracy have faded from Russia. With the potential to rule in perpetuity, Putin joins Kim Jong Un and Al-Assad on the list of rulers who cannot be toppled by their internal constitutions. As if it were ever in doubt, Russia is now officially a dictatorship.