BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly Review 2020/27

Russia postponed its referendum on constitutional changes from late April to last Wednesday (July 1) due to the coronavirus epidemic. Preliminary returns show that 78 % of voters supported the constitutional changes. The measure failed to garner majority support only in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. Nationally, voter turnout was 68 %. According to the Central Election Commission, this implies that 53 % of all Russians entitled to vote supported the changes. The vast majority of voters cast their ballots before the actual election day as Russia introduced early voting in response to the coronavirus.

The constitutional amendments adopted in the vote include a reset provision that would allow Vladimir Putin to continue as president for another two six-year terms after his current term expires in 2024. There are also number of other changes made in the constitution. According to a survey conducted by VCIOM at the end of May, the provisions considered most topical by Russian voters included guarantees of state-provided health care, indexation of pensions and other social benefits, as well as the protection of historical truth and national sovereignty. While the referendum was non-binding, the Russian administration views the vote as an endorsement of the current system’s legitimacy.

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