78pc of voters back extending Putin’s rule: Russian officials

MOSCOW (AP) — Almost 78 per cent of voters in Russia have approved amendments to the country’s constitution that will allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power until 2036, Russian election officials said yesterday after all the votes were counted. Kremlin critics said the vote was rigged.

In the week-long balloting that concluded on Wednesday, 77.9 per cent voted for the changes, and 21.3 per cent voted against, with 100 per cent of the precincts counted by yesterday morning, Russia’s Central Election Commission said. The turnout exceeded 64 per cent, according to officials.

The reported numbers reflect the highest level of voter support for Putin in 10 years. In the 2018 presidential election, 76.7 per cent of voters supported his candidacy, while in the 2012 election only 63.6 per cent did.

But Kremlin critics said the numbers alone show they are false, with an unrealistic approval rating for the Russian leader amid wide frustration in the country over declining living standards.

“A record in falsifying votes has been set in Russia,” Opposition Politician Alexei Navalny said in a Facebook post yesterday. “The announced result has nothing whatsoever to do with the people’s opinion.”

Putin’s approval rating was at 59 per cent in May, according to the Levada Centre, Russia’s top independent pollster. That was the lowest in two decades.

The week-long plebiscite was tarnished by widespread reports of pressure on voters and other irregularities, with independent election observers criticising the voting procedure as having a complete lack of transparency and independent control.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shows his passport to a member of an election commission as he arrives to take part in voting at a polling station in Moscow, Russia. PHOTO: AP