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Putin reportedly plans to address the nation and postpone Russia’s constitutional plebiscite, though the Kremlin currently denies it

Source: Meduza
Alexey Druzhinin / Pool / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Vladimir Putin is reportedly planning to address the nation and announce that he is postponing a nationwide vote on major constitutional amendments, due to safety concerns about the spread of coronavirus. A source close to the presidential administration confirmed that the speech is expected in the coming days. In the West, U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron have already delivered national addresses.

According to Meduza’s source, Putin and top officials spent the weekend discussing a postponement of the constitutional amendment vote. As of Monday morning, the president had reportedly not yet reached a final decision. Another source close to the Kremlin told Meduza that the plebiscite was still set for April, as of Friday, March 13.

At the moment, the likeliest date for a delayed nationwide vote is June 12. “This is Russia Day, a holiday that matches the focus of the voting, with the Constitution. It’s a day off, followed by two more days off, and you could use all three days to conduct the vote,” one source said. Officials have also discussed the possibility of postponing the vote until September 13 (when Russia holds regional elections for governors, legislative assemblies, and municipal councils), but the Kremlin reportedly prefers moving forward in June. “Combining the votes could lead to an unexpected result and raise questions about the legality of such a postponement,” a source with close ties to the Putin administration told Meduza. The legislation containing the proposed constitutional amendments says only that the date of the nationwide plebiscite is set by presidential decree.

A source close to those organizing the nationwide vote told that the plebiscite could be postponed not because of coronavirus but due to the Constitutional Court’s inability to review the amendments’ constitutionality within the allotted seven days. The website Open Media, meanwhile, reported that Russia’s epidemiological situation is the reason for delaying a vote on the constitutional amendments, as officials cannot ensure high turnout under the current health conditions. According to the newspaper Vedomosti, the Kremlin wants a 60-percent turnout with as many voters supporting the constitutional amendments.

Speaking to journalists on March 16, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Putin administration is not currently considering any postponement to Russia’s April 22 nationwide vote. “There’s no objective evidence for [these claims]. You’re aware that the voting date must be formalized by a presidential order. Let’s wait for this order. There’s been no such discussion so far,” Peskov said on Monday.

Text by Andrey Pertsev and Alexander Filimonov

Translation by Kevin Rothrock

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