On Monday, Putin agreed that the proposed date looks “quite suitable for holding an all-Russian vote on constitutional amendments,” and called the scheduling “impeccable” from the legal point of view.
Initially planned for April 22, Putin was forced to postpone the vote due to an ever-worsening epidemiological situation. A package of constitutional amendments was passed by Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, in March. They swiftly gained approval from the legislative bodies of each Russian region and the country’s Constitutional Court. The bill passed 383-0, with 44 abstentions – mainly members of the opposition Communist Party.
The amendments include banning important officials from having foreign citizenships and restricting all future presidents’ time in office to a total of two terms. The new constitution would also transfer more powers to the country’s two houses of parliament – the State Duma and the Federation Council. For example, the appointment of a prime minister and other cabinet members proposed by the president would be subject to the approval of the State Duma.
Controversially, the new constitution would also ‘nullify’ the terms already served by President Putin, allowing him to run again for a fifth term in 2024.
Outside of structural political change, the newly amended constitution would include a controversial article defining marriage as an institution between a man and a woman.
In March, the Constitutional Court determined that this amendment is legal, but does not remove the state’s obligation to respect differences, including sexual orientation.
The Court also decided that the much-debated inclusion of God in the constitution is “of a retrospective nature” and “does not declare religious belief binding.” Officially, Russia is a secular state.
According to presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, July 1 will be a day off work for all Russians, enabling everyone to vote.
Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s consumer protection watchdog, noted that July 1 would be a safe day for voting, explaining that compliance with the watchdog’s recommendations would eliminate the risk of spreading coronavirus when voting on an amendment to the constitution.
After agreeing to the date of July 1, Putin encouraged Russians to use the next month to figure out their attitude towards the proposed constitutional changes.
“It is no coincidence that the constitution is termed the main law of the country. I very much hope that Russian citizens will take an active part in determining the parameters of the main law, by voting on the constitutional amendments,” the president said.