Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, February 28, 2018. - Alexei Druzhinin / SPUTNIK / AFP

By organizing his large constitutional referendum on July 1, Vladimir Putin wants to signal a rapid return to normality, after the parenthesis of the coronavirus, and to cut the grass under the feet of his critics. "We are returning to normal life," the Russian president said on Monday, announcing the timetable for the popular vote on the constitutional amendments, which will notably give him the opportunity to stay in power until 2036, the year of his 84 years.

A few days earlier, he had already ordered the holding on June 24 of another event close to his heart and dear to the Russians: the great military parade which should have been held on May 9 to celebrate the Soviet victory over the Nazis. After two months of economic and health crisis, "the Kremlin is in a hurry (...) it wants to get out of this difficult period as quickly as possible, forget it and finally organize its parade and its referendum", notes AFP Tatiana Stanovaïa from R. Politik analysis center.

Before the economic crisis comes out 

Initiated by Vladimir Putin in January, validated in March by the Parliament, the constitutional reform should have been submitted to the polls in April, but the coronavirus went through there. For analysts, Vladimir Putin wants to relaunch his flagship project for 2020 as long as he can surf on what he considers to be the success of his anti-Covid-19 policy: mortality that is counted in thousands and not in tens of thousands as in Western Europe.

In addition, it is also a question of bringing the Russians to the polls before the effects of the world economic crisis do not bite too much in their portfolios, a recession of 5 to 6% being expected this year, even as the power of purchase has already been at half mast since 2014.

Opponents denounce endangering lives

Russia began cautiously deconfining on May 12. Moscow, the capital and epicenter of the epidemic, did not even reopen its shops until Monday, the day the referendum date was announced. And the country still registers between 8,000 and 9,000 new cases every day and has a total of more than 400,000, the 3rd total in the world.

Opponents of the Kremlin hastened to cry out that the lives of the Russians were in danger. “In the name of his mandates, Putin is ready to risk the life and health of people. They get infected, as long as Pépé is happy? "Commented Lioubov Sobol on Twitter, a relative of Alexei Navalny, sworn enemy of the Kremlin. The electoral commission assured, that between masks, gloves, possibility of voting at home and safety distance, the risk will be minimal.

According to an opinion survey published Tuesday by the independent Levada Institute, only two out of three Russians are sure to go to the polls, and among them opinions are mixed: 44% are for reform, 32% are against. And this while the constitutional revision includes popular measures: establishment of a minimum wage, indexation of pensions or the definition of marriage as a heterosexual union. As for the popularity of Vladimir Putin, it remains high (63% of favorable opinion), but it lost 20 points in two years, according to Levada.


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