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Russia Votes: Voting That Could Keep President Putin In The Office For The Next 16 Years



Voting is ongoing now in a seven-day referendum on constitutional amendments that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run for re-election twice more and potentially remain in the top job for the next 16 years.

Election officials said they were opening polls on Thursday across the country before the official July 1 vote to avoid overcrowding that could spread coronavirus infections.

Meanwhile, masks and disinfectant gels are being made available to 110 million voters across 10 time zones, from the Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the Pacific Ocean.

The vote which was initially scheduled for April 22, was postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic and officials imposed restrictions to slow the pandemic.

President Putin has been in power  for the past 20 years (starting off as a prime minister), and has insisted that Russians vote on the changes even though a referendum is not legally required, arguing that a plebiscite would give them legitimacy.

The reforms would reset Putin's presidential term-limit clock to zero, allowing him to run two more times and potentially stay in the Kremlin until 2036.

Under current rules, 67-year-old Putin's current term in the Kremlin (the official residence of the President of Russia) would expire in 2024.

Putin has cultivated a reputation as a guarantor of the Russian state's stability, in contrast with the turbulence of the post-Soviet 1990s before he came to power.

About 59% of Russian adults approve of Putin's work as president, according to a nationwide survey last month by the country's largest independent pollster, Levada Centre.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny has slammed the vote as a populist ploy designed to give Putin the right to be "president for life".

He said this month on social media: "It is a violation of the Constitution, a coup," 

The opposition's campaign against the reforms failed to gain momentum.

Rallies scheduled in the Russian capital, Moscow, in April were barred under virus restrictions against public gatherings.

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