Russia: constitutional referendum in spite of corona?

In Russia, the package of constitutional amendments - including the possibility for Putin to remain in office - has been swiftly approved by the Federation Council, all regional parliaments and also by the Constitutional Court in an expedited procedure. Now the people are to have their say on the reform in a referendum due to be held on April 22. But the corona crisis has put a big question mark over whether the vote should take place as planned.

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Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

Last minute cancellation still possible

Putin may well be quite happy to cancel the referendum at the last minute, Ilta-Sanomat speculates:

“According to official figures released on Tuesday, the coronavirus has spread to fifteen different federal districts in Russia and 114 people have been infected. ... It's entirely possible that a coronavirus time bomb is ticking in Russia, but that the Kremlin doesn't want to admit it. One reason for this attitude could be the upcoming constitutional reform. ... The Kremlin may be weighing up what constitutes the greater risk, holding the referendum despite the virus or postponing it. It's possible that Putin will take a tactical approach and wait a little before declaring a nationwide corona emergency as a result of which the constitutional changes can enter into force quickly - and without a referendum.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Referendum a pointless farce anyway

Echo of Moscow appeals to Putin to cancel the vote:

“We'll spend 15-20 billion roubles on it (in a crisis situation) and have to open about 100,000 polling stations (which is dangerous because of the coronavirus). ... So we make the following request: 20 years of experience have shown you as well as the people how precisely your hopes and wishes are fulfilled when they are put to the people's vote. So why spend so much money in such difficult times and create dangerous crowds to boot? ... Let's simply declare the vote of April 22nd to have taken place and publish the result: 75 percent participation, 85 percent yes votes. If you like we'll be happy to give you even more - we can't challenge the result anyway.”