International

Putin strongly backed in controversial Russian reform vote

Nearly 78% of Russian voters backed constitutional reforms that could keep President Vladimir Putin in power until 2036, election officials say.

With all the ballots counted, 77.9% voted for the reform package and 21.3% against, the electoral commission said.

The reforms will reset Mr Putin’s term limits to zero in 2024, allowing him to serve two more six-year terms.

Opposition figures denounced the vote, saying he was aiming to be “president for life”, a claim Mr Putin denies.

He is already the longest-serving leader in modern Russian history since Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

There was no independent scrutiny of the seven-day vote, and copies of the new constitution appeared in bookshops during the week.

By spreading out the vote, because of the coronavirus infection risk, the authorities made any monitoring of it more difficult.

Top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny described the results as a “big lie” which did not reflect real public opinion in the country. BBC