Putin president until 2036?

The Russians have until the end of today, 1 July, to vote in a referendum on comprehensive constitutional amendments. Under the amendments the president's number of terms in office would be reduced to two, but as the counter would be reset to zero President Vladimir Putin would be able to remain in office until 2036 - which commentators strongly criticise.

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Tvnet (LV) /

The return of the czar

Putin will remain president for life, the web portal Tvnet is convinced:

“Those who go to the polling station can draw a lottery ticket and win a car or a great apartment. Moscow is doing everything possible to mobilise its voters. If the lottery voters vote yes today, changes to the Russian constitution will be implemented and Putin will occupy the Kremlin until 2036. ... Since the Russians actually believe in their czar, he will surely be put on the throne for life. And since the opportunities for political opposition in Russia are just as restricted as in North Korea or China, a change of course is not expected.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

A big helping of Putin - with side dishes and dressing

Of all the constitutional amendments only the potential extension of Putin's time in office is relevant, Echo of Moscow stresses:

“This whole circus was only conceived so that Putin could remain in power forever. That's all you need to know about the matter. The other points and paragraphs are all irrelevant because they're just side dishes and dressings. ... Although it's always said that there is no alternative to Putin, and the people support him wholeheartedly, the decision was never taken to ask the people directly: Do you want constitutional changes that allow this man to continue for 16 more years as the head of state? The answer to this question is so feared that the vote has been turned into a party.”

Gordonua.com (UA) /

The only option is to take to the streets

The reform plan is a blatant farce and the opposition is putting up too little resistance, Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was imprisoned in Russia from 2014 to 2019, writes in a Facebook post published by Gordonua.com:

“The Russian opposition forces and what is left of those citizens with common sense are arguing about whether to vote against the changes or boycott the illegitimate referendum. ... They will be living in this voluntary slavery for a long time to come. Until, that is, they realise that both options are wrong. Because you have to fight for your freedom. And if the powers that be leave you no other choice, there is only one way: to take to the streets.”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

The state is embarassing itself

The state's behaviour is shameful, human rights activist Lev Ponomarev finds in Novaya Gazeta:

“It's in too much of a hurry and that exposes its insecurity and vulnerability. Quarantine rules are being unnecessarily lifted. Shortly before the vote a military parade will be held - for whom, it is not clear. Certainly not for the nameless veterans who silently played the role of extras in the stands. Posters have been put up every five metres to inform the people about family values and other things that the constitutional amendment will supposedly uphold. New know-how is being invented, such as tents and benches for outdoor voting. Why, if not out of fear, are they doing all this? ... We are witnessing the self-abasement of an authority that voluntarily makes a fool of itself before the people.”

Politiken (DK) /

Gloomy prospects

Things do not bode well for Russia, Politiken puts in:

“So far we know that in the first 20 years of his time as president and as prime minister, Putin has pruned Russia's fledgling democracy back to the roots. We know that he stands for an aggressive foreign and security policy that culminated in the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea, the shadow war in eastern Ukraine, the war crimes in Syria and the attempt to destabilise the EU and interfere with the Western democracies' internal affairs. ... Coming to terms with such a Russia will be difficult, even if all channels and possibilities must be kept open.”

Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR Online) (EE) /

Annuling the future

The vote on the constitutional amendments is nothing more than a farce, ERR's Moscow correspondent laments:

“The referendum is supposed to show the world: I am not a dictator, the people themselves have asked me to stay in power. More importantly, Putin can also show this mandate to the elites - the politicians, dignitaries and elected officials. It is above all them whom Vladimir Vladimirovich wants to stop from thinking about a future without Putin and looking for a successor. ... . By annuling the president's past terms of office it is in fact the future that is being cancelled, not the past. After July 1 Putin will be as much a part of Russia as the flag, the two-headed eagle and the victory parade on Red Square.”