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Russian voters agree to extend Putin’s rule to 2036

Russian voters approve changes to the constitution that will allow President Vladimir Putin to hold power until 2036. But the weeklong plebiscite that concluded this evening was tarnished by widespread reports of pressure on voters and other irregularities.

With most of the nation’s polls closed and 20% of precincts counted, 72% voted for the constitutional amendments, according to election officials.

For the first time in Russia, polls were kept open for a week to bolster turnout without increasing crowds casting ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic — a provision that Kremlin critics denounced as an extra tool to manipulate the outcome.

A massive propaganda campaign and the opposition’s failure to mount a coordinated challenge helped Putin get the result he wanted, but the plebiscite could end up eroding his position because of the unconventional methods used to boost participation and the dubious legal basis for the balloting.

By the time polls closed in Moscow and most other parts of Western Russia, the overall turnout was at 65%, according to election officials. In some regions, almost 90% of eligible voters cast ballots.

— AP

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