Putin orders amendments extending his rule into constitution

International

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of working group to prepare proposals on amending the Russian Constitution via teleconference in Moscow, Russia, Friday, July 3, 2020. Almost 78% 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 Thursday after all the votes were counted. Kremlin critics said the vote was rigged. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered amendments that would allow him to remain in power until 2036 to be put into the Russian Constitution after voters approved the changes during a week-long plebiscite.

“The amendments come into force. They come into force, without overstating it, at the people’s will,” Putin said after he signed a decree to have the constitution revised.

“We made this important decisions together, as a country.” the Russian president said during a video-conference with lawmakers who worked on drafting the amendments.

According to a copy of the decree released by the Russian government on Friday, the amendments will come into force on Saturday. The changes allow Putin to run for two more six-year terms after his current one expires in 2024, but also outlaw same-sex marriages, mention the “belief in God as a core value” and emphasize the primacy of Russian law over international norms.

Putin proposed amending the constitution in January and insisted on putting the language on his eligibility for office and the other topics up to a nationwide vote that wasn’t legally required after the changes were approved by Russia’s parliament and rubber-stamped by the country’s Constitutional Court.

The citizens’ vote was initially scheduled for April 22, but postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The balloting concluded on Wednesday amid widespread reports of pressure on voters and other irregularities.

Kremlin critics denounced the results of the plebiscite — with 78% “yes” votes and a nearly 68% turnout – as falsified and undermining the legitimacy of the amendments.

Central Election Commission Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova rejected the accusations on Friday, saying that the results of the vote are “authentic” and their legitimacy is “indisputable.”

“The vote was carried out with the utmost transparency,” she said.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, said Friday that lawmakers would start working on bills implementing the amendments immediately, without taking their traditional summer break.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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