Press release

Russia: Constitutional Vote Shamelessly Co-opts the People's Will

In response to the results of Russia’s constitutional referendum, Freedom House issued the following statement: 

“Russia’s recent constitutional vote was merely a public relations stunt by the Kremlin to make it appear as though the Russian people support entrenching authoritarianism,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “The Kremlin mobilized the public to vote on an issue that had already been decided by the parliament, asking the voters to endorse 200 constitutional changes, about which they had no means of making an informed decision. These changes consolidate authoritarian control and enable President Vladimir Putin to stay in power by resetting term limits. Once again, the Russian people have been denied the chance to impact the future direction of their country."   

Background:

On January 15, in an annual address to parliament, Putin proposed amending the constitution, including extending the official presidential term limit, allowing himself to continue running for president for two additional six-year terms, thereby allowing Putin  retain power through 2036. Parliament approved the proposed amendments in March. The public vote on the already approved constitutional changes was rescheduled from April 22 to July 1, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Russia, with early voting starting June 25.

Russia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, and is categorized as a Consolidated Authoritarian Regime in Nations in Transit 2020.