Russians have overwhelmingly voted in favor of changes to the country’s constitution that enable President Vladimir Putin to potentially stay in power up to 2036.
With 67 percent of ballots counted after the end of seven days of voting, the final count showed 77.9% of those who voted were in favor of amendments the central election commission said.
The amendments had been passed weeks ago by Russia’s parliament and copies of the new constitution were already on sale in bookshops, but Putin had said voter approval was 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 also reset presidential limits allowing him to run twice again after his current six-year term expires in 2024.
President Putin gave a speech Tuesday, on the eve of the last day of voting, calling on Russians to vote, though he did not mention how the changes would amend rules to the presidential office that “reset the clock” on Putin’s presidency.
“We are going to vote for the country where we want to live, with cutting-edge education and health care, a reliable system of social protection and an effective government accountable to the people,” he said in a national address after unveiling a patriotic monument to Soviet soldiers.
“We are going to vote for a country to the benefit of which we have been working and which we would like to pass on to our children and grandchildren.”