(Update: adds Putin’s speech)
Moscow, Jun 30 (efe-epa).- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called on citizens to vote on constitutional reforms that would him to stay in power longer.
He said in a televised speech: “Tomorrow, July 1, is the main voting day. I ask you, dear friends, to express your opinion.
“Every vote is important. We do not vote only for the amendments … we vote for the country in which we want to live.”
Without going so far as to openly ask the public to vote in favor of the reforms, he added: “We vote for the country … that we want to leave our children and grandchildren.”
Putin appealed to Russian’s sense of patriotism and remembered those who fought against the Nazis so that the country could live in peace and “take pride in Russia, a country with a unique civilization and a great culture”.
According to Russia’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC), almost half of the electorate has already voted in advance, a system designed to avoid crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.
Critics have denounced the advanced voting system, which saw polling stations open on 25 June, as a way to control the electoral process and manipulate the results.
The Movement for Defence of Voters’ Rights or “Golos”, Russia’s only independent electoral watchdog, has warned of irregularities in the referendum.
Grigori Melkoniants, co-director of Golos, told Efe: “We cannot believe in the electoral results. The chosen procedure is unprecedented and does not respond to either Russian or international standards.”