In a March 18 meeting with residents of Sevastopol, Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed concerns that holding a nationwide vote on his proposed constitutional changes amid the COVD-19 pandemic would pose risks to voters’ health. The vote, which would set the stage for Putin to hold the presidency until 2036, is currently scheduled for April 22.
In the words of a report from RIA Novosti, Putin indicated that his team is considering “all legally permitted means” of voting, including voting from home and early voting from home. When asked whether Russia’s online government services portal might be used to conduct parts of the plebiscite in lieu of physical voting, Putin said he had indeed discussed that option with Central Election Commission Chair Ella Pamfilova.
The president emphasized that he believes new constitutional changes are in demand and that he hopes for a positive result following the nationwide vote. “After all, we’re not changing the Constitution; we’re only inserting additional sections,” he explained.
In addition to “zeroing out” the presidential term counts for Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the new amendments would make a number of changes to Russian policy and political structure, insert a preamble emphasizing the role of God and ethnic Russians in the Russian state, and ban same-sex marriage in Russia’s fundamental national law.
Despite reports earlier in the week by multiple media outlets (including this one) that the Kremlin was planning to postpone the plebiscite because of the global coronavirus pandemic, Putin stuck to the previously established date and scheduled the vote on April 22. However, he acknowledged that the spread of COVID-19 may still force a delay in the vote.