In Russia, the strange vote on the Constitution

Open polling station for the reform of the constitution, in Saint-Petersburg on June 28, 2020. OLGA MALTSEVA / AFP

Text by: Daniel Vallot Follow

Mobile polling stations, one-way election campaign, lotteries to encourage voters to vote ... The conduct of the vote on the reform of the Constitution raises many questions - and sarcasm - on social networks. The outcome of the "national vote" is in no doubt: it is the "Yes" which will prevail, which would allow Vladimir Putin to run for two new terms and remain in power until 2036.


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from our correspondent in Moscow,

Even before the end of a week-long poll due to coronavirus, a Russian polling institute is already giving results "  out of the polls  " and not surprisingly it is the "Yes" that wins with more than 75 % voices. Asked about the irregularity of the publication of a poll during the election, the Russian electoral commission contented itself with regretting it but admitted having "  no leverage  " to prohibit it.

Explanation: the vote on the reform of the Constitution is not governed by the electoral law in force - the authorities having taken care not to qualify it as a "referendum". A vote "outside the framework" or all, or almost, becomes possible. This provokes a number of criticisms and harsh comments from the opposition or on social networks. According to the electoral observation NGO Golos, interviewed by the Moscow Times, this vote would even be "  one of the least transparent and one of the most manipulated  " of the last decades in Russia.

Cars and apartments to win

Because if the outcome of the vote is not in doubt - with the consequence that Vladimir Putin can run for two additional terms - it is the turnout that worries the authorities. Scheduled initially in April, after the surprise announcement of the constitutional reform in January, the vote had to be postponed by more than two months because of coronavirus.

Broken political dynamics, and demotivated voters: everything is done to encourage Russians to vote. As several Russian media have pointed out, traditional methods are being used, with the pressure exerted by large companies and administrations on their employees to vote, and have their loved ones vote. And the “  lotteries  ” organized on the occasion of the vote have taken on unprecedented scale in the past.

In some areas, voters can win a phone, a car, and even an apartment. In Moscow, the prizes are more modest since they are mainly vouchers to spend in shops in the Russian capital. But the total amount of the sums committed still amounts to more than a hundred million euros.

Mobile polling stations

To facilitate voting despite the risks associated with the coronavirus epidemic, the authorities also encouraged home voting and authorized the establishment of mobile, open-air offices. As a result, Russian social networks were inundated with quite astonishing images of improvised polling stations in parking lots, in the back of vans, or on public benches. Far from international standards in electoral matters.

Another criticism addressed this time by the opposition: the absence of debate, and even of possibility of debating on this reform of the Constitution. Because of coronavirus, rallies were banned, and the "No" camp did not get any space for expression on television, where the only audible voices were in favor of the reform. It is true that a good part of the opposition immediately considered this vote to be illegitimate, and preferred to call for a boycott.

To listen to: Poutine until 2036? Voters called to validate constitutional reform

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  • Russia
  • Vladimir Poutine

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