Russia: constitutional referendum on 1 July
Putin has postponed the constitutional reform referendum originally planned for 22 April to 1 July. In response to the pandemic, the vote will take place mostly outdoors and with the option of casting ballots up to a week in advance. For some commentators, it's about time the vote happened; others see propaganda at work.
A new social contract at the right time
In the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, political scientist Dmitry Orlov argues that the coronavirus crisis makes the constitutional amendment all the more urgent:
“Social tensions can grow not only during a crisis but also as the country emerges from a crisis. Putin is proposing to enshrine citizens' social rights in the constitution. This is not the only element of change, but it is the main one. ... Putin is acting as the driver of a new policy to overcome the economic repercussions of the pandemic. And he is proposing a renewed social contract for the country based on social guarantees, stricter control of the elites and the values of conservative development. This is Russia's new course in the face of new challenges.”
Riding the patriotic wave to the referendum
The Kremlin has chosen the new date very carefully, according to the Germany-based Russian sociologist Igor Eidman at Gordonua.com:
“It is a high-tech political operation and it has been planned down to the very last day. 'Our grandfathers' will be used as fuel for the political bonfire where a propagandist concoction will be cooked up. Ten days of a victory frenzy await us at the end of June: with a memorial day for the beginning of the war on the 22nd, which will apparently be celebrated on a particularly grand scale this year, and then the parade on the 24th. All these patriotic events are aimed at psyching up the audience for the 'referendum' on July 1, and making sure they go to the polls in a state of imbecility. Hypnotic mantras will be blasting out everywhere: our grandfathers fought the war and everyone is still against us today.”