While the results show an overwhelming majority of Russians have backed a proposed broad package of amendments to the country’s constitution, many leading opposition figures have immediately cried foul.
Moscow protest leader Alexei Navalny rejected the legitimacy of the plebiscite and asked his followers not to engage in “despair and anxiety,” but instead to focus on “mobilization.” The populist activist, who has attempted to appeal to both nationalists and liberals, is prominent in the Western media’s coverage of Russia.
“I woke up and found out78 percent voted for zeroing Putin’s terms. That is, even more than in the presidential election in 2018 (76 percent). Russia has broken the record of fake votes. The announced result doesn’t even have anything to do with people’s opinions,” he wrote on Telegram. Read more British meddling? Russian Election Commission says DDoS attack on constitution vote website was launched from UK
The election-monitoring organization Golos agreed with Navalny’s assessment of the nature of the vote, believing the turnout and results to be rigged. Golos is registered in Russia as a ‘foreign agent’ and once received funding from the United States Agency for International Development.
Many of Navalny’s allies, part of the so-called ‘non-systematic’ opposition, believe that the constitutional vote was entirely fabricated to give legitimacy to Putin staying on as president for two more terms, until 2036.
“This is not a vote, not a referendum, but a show,” said Lyubov Sobol, an opposition politician and lawyer for Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund. Sobol thinks the vote was manufactured, allowing Putin to declare that serving further terms is the will of the people.
The constitutional amendments were also opposed by the country’s biggest opposition parliamentary party, the Communists. In the weeks before the vote, the party’s leader, Gennady Zyuganov, called on Russians to vote against it, citing a rushed process. On polling day, he tweeted, “Amendment voting is not a referendum. This is an all-Russian survey, which, in addition, is going ahead in accordance with incomprehensible rules. In such a situation, you cannot allow your voice to be stolen.”
Another ‘systematic’ opposition politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, supported the amendments, however. Last week, when the political veteran voted, he said it was “imperative to support” the “major overhaul of the constitution.”