World In Russia, makeshift polling stations mobilize for Putin

14:50  30 june  2020
14:50  30 june  2020 Source:   lepoint.fr

Russians hit the reset button for Putin, but questions of legitimacy linger over his long-term rule

  Russians hit the reset button for Putin, but questions of legitimacy linger over his long-term rule On Wednesday, voters across Russia will have a chance to hit the reset button for Vladimir Putin: A national referendum will decide whether to approve a raft of constitutional amendments that will allow the Russian president to run for two more terms in office, potentially extending his tenure until 2036. © Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg/Getty Images A man casts a ballot at a polling station in Moscow on Tuesday. At first glance, everything seems to be going to plan for the Kremlin.

An outdoor polling station in Novosibirsk. Russians can endorse (or oppose) a plan to let Putin run for two more terms, potentially prolonging his Russia holds a yes/no referendum on various topics including a proposal to amend the constitution to allow Putin to seek another two terms in the Kremlin.

Russia has begun voting on constitutional reforms that could allow President Vladimir Putin to serve another two terms in office. Officials are providing masks and hand sanitiser at polling stations across the country. The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow says a big turnout is vital for the Kremlin.

  En Russie, des bureaux de vote de fortune mobilisent pour Poutine © Provided by Le Point

An urn erected on a plastic table in a building courtyard: in Saint Petersburg as elsewhere, improvised polling stations have been set up to encourage the Russians to participate in the constitutional referendum wanted by Vladimir Putin .

Despite its unusual presentation, the installation represents an official voting place, alongside traditional offices and the Internet, for this poll which takes place from June 25 to July 1.

For the authorities, it is a matter of protecting voters in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It is practical, people can vote by the way and it also minimizes the risk of infection with the coronavirus" since it is outdoors, justifies Ekaterina Vesselkova, member of the local electoral commission, who is waiting for voters in this popular district of the second city of Russia .

Russia: last day of a referendum under the sign of Putin

 Russia: last day of a referendum under the sign of Putin © Provided by Le Point The Russians must approve Wednesday a vast constitutional reform initiated by President Vladimir Putin and which according to his detractors aims to perpetuate his stranglehold on the Russia after 20 years in power. This vote was originally scheduled for April, but has been postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic. To avoid excessive crowds at polling stations without undermining participation, the ballot runs from June 25 to July 1.

Putin voted at his usual polling station at the Russian Academy of Sciences, where he appeared to Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund who was barred from running, said Sunday's vote showed authorities had given up pretending that elections in Russia were democratic.

Pictures show Russians voting in bizarre makeshift polling stations on tree stumps, in car boots, at children's playgrounds and on park benches as the poll goes ahead during the pandemic. Approval in the vote that concludes July 1 will allow Putin to seek two more six-year terms after his current one

A small cardboard screen is supposed to guarantee the secrecy of the vote for the fifty people who come every day.

In the center of the former imperial capital, another of these improvised polling stations has been set up in a small square. It has no screen, but voters can vote "behind the ballot box," say officials.

"We had a screen, but the wind carried it all the time," said Yuri Chursov, another member of the electoral commission, while urging passers-by to come and vote.

The aim of the maneuver, according to its detractors, is not so much to protect from the risk of infection, but to seek out all the possible voters in order to have the legitimacy of a strong participation.

President Vladimir Putin has indeed insisted on the holding of this ballot to which nothing obliged him so that the people approve the reforms already validated by the legislative power at a run at the start of the year.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has made his first public appearance in weeks of coronavirus lockdown to celebrate the country's national day. He used the Russia Day holiday to promote a controversial reform of the constitution which could keep him in office until 2036.

Earlier this month, Putin made another unexpected revelation on the country’s hypersonic missile program as he toured a new Russian navy corvette on the Baltic Sea – it It could’ve been just a slip of the tongue made in front of the cameras, but Putin didn’t make an attempt to correct the navy man.

Benches, cars and buses

"It seems clear that this new type of voting serves to generate mobilization from the places of residence of voters", underlines with AFP Vitali Averine, regional coordinator of the independent Golos movement, specialized in monitoring the elections in Russia.

And these "astonishing" scenes are due to the fact that the authorities developed this process during "confinement measures and under emergency conditions", according to him.

The reform of the Constitution, the first since 1993, must above all give the president in office and power for 20 years to stand for two additional terms after the current one in 2024.

The reform also strengthens certain presidential prerogatives and enshrined in fundamental law conservative principles such as "faith in God" and marriage as a heterosexual institution.

Since the start of the vote on Thursday, many internet users have been laughing at these strange polling stations, photos and videos in support, with ballot boxes installed on public benches, in the trunk of a car, in the countryside or even in buses.

Russian reporter accuses police of breaking his arm at poll

  Russian reporter accuses police of breaking his arm at poll MOSCOW (AP) — A journalist in St. Petersburg was hospitalized with a broken arm on Tuesday after a confrontation with police at a polling station where he arrived to investigate reports of voter fraud. The incident made national headlines on Wednesday, the final day of voting on the constitutional reform that could pave the way for President Vladimir Putin to remain in power until 2036. State officials blamed the incident on the reporter. David Frenkel, a reporter with the Mediazona online outlet, said he came to a St. Petersburg polling station following reports of voting violations, and a police officer broke his arm while trying to remove him from the poll.

‘Disappointing & depressing’: Russian Communist leader criticizes Putin ’s constitutional On July 1, Russians will vote on a wide-ranging selection of amendments to Russia ’s most fundamental When people go to the polls on July 1, Zyuganov hopes they will vote against the new Constitution – rather

Russian state opinion pollster VTsIOM said on Monday that its exit polls showed that 76% of Russians had so far voted to support reforms that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he saw no problem making preliminary results public before July 1. “This is not competitive voting, not elections

If he avoided campaigning, believing that the result of the referendum would be falsified in any case, the main opponent to the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny , got angry against the method.

"I refuse to accept that the fundamental law of my country can be adopted by + voting + in the trunks of cars, tents and on stumps of trees", he still wrote on Twitter Monday.

But other improper methods of electoral mobilization are also used, according to the NGO Golos. The latter noted some 1,300 violations, whether multiple votes or pressure from employers on their employees to go and vote.

Critical voices have also denounced tricks to incite the Russians to go to vote, with for example a giant lottery with gifts for those who made the trip.

Finally, a poll taken outside the polling stations and published Monday by the Vtsiom institute, three days before the end of the vote, gives 76% of Russians approving the reform.

If the publication of this poll before the end of the vote does not represent a violation of the law in itself, such an initiative is tantamount to "influencing" the choice of voters, regrets Vitali Averine of the Golos movement.

06/30/2020 11:11:01 AM - Saint Petersburg (AFP) - © 2020 AFP

Here's what it means for Russia if Putin rules until 2036 .
Russian President Vladimir Putin won a referendum on constitutional changes allowing him to extend his rule until 2036. The vote produced an overwhelming result in favor of a package of amendments -- officially 77.9% supporting, 21.3% against -- that the Kremlin hailed it as a "triumphant referendum of confidence" in Putin.

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