“Everything is already decided,” says a Russian voter after participating in the constitutional plebiscite that opens the door for President Vladimir Putin to remain in the Kremlin after 2024, as no surprise is expected in the vote count.
For the first time in Russia, a decision of this magnitude is adopted in a seven-day vote, which, according to the opposition, lends itself to all kinds of irregularities, and masked within a package of more than 200 amendments.
A BITTER PILL
For many Russian voters, it was not an easy decision, as they were called to reject or approve with a single “yes” or “no” two hundred constitutional amendments, some of which are welcome – the indexation of pensions and support for families numerous-, while others generate doubts and even rejection.
“They offer us a bitter pill wrapped in candy paper,” Larisa, a young computer scientist residing in the city of Bronnitsi, 50 kilometers south of the Russian capital, told Efe.
However, others have a different opinion: the retired Muscovite Ekaterina Klinévskaya assures that she came to vote for “the future of children, grandchildren and all of Russia”, something that links to the approval of Putin’s amendments.
For Vladimir, who came to vote by bicycle accompanied by his daughter, it is not a black or white option.
“I came to vote in favor of the values of the traditional family. It is true that I am a little worried that Putin will stay in power longer, but I consider the rest of the amendments positive,” he told Efe.
He was referring to the amendment that confirms in the Constitution that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
A young pollster who carried out a poll at the ballot box showed Efe its first results, which gave a slight advantage to “yes”.
HINCAPIÉ IN PARTICIPATION
The polling station was practically empty during the last day of voting: the Russians have had a whole week to vote early, and in Moscow and the Nizhni Novgorod region they have even been able to do it online.
To encourage electronic suffrage, online voting has been rewarded with free entries in raffles for various prizes, many of them with cash equivalents.
“Participating in the raffle is optional. I did it and I earned 1,000 points, equivalent to 1,000 rubles (about $ 14), to spend in a supermarket network,” Román, a 71-year-old pensioner, told Efe.
He regretted that his wife, at odds with new technologies, went to vote at the electoral college and there was no draw there.
During the previous six days of voting, ballot boxes were installed in companies, outdoors and even in car trunks. Ballots were also taken to apartment buildings.
At polling stations, voters are greeted by volunteers who measure their temperature upon entry and monitor the use of protective means.
If you do not have a mask and gloves, the electoral college offers an envelope with these means, in addition to pads with disinfectant and a disposable pen to fill out the ballot.
The polling station floor is marked with lines that indicate the safe distance between voters, although few already notice them, fed up with months of restrictions and security measures.
Despite all the rules and calls to observe sanitary measures, the president, Vladimir Putin, voted without a mask or gloves, as did Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
Observers from United Russia, the Kremlin party, detected around 400 infractions, mostly “insignificant”, according to the official TASS agency.
According to Evgueni Revenko, undersecretary of the party’s General Council, these are voters who showed up without masks and the lack of antiseptics in some schools.
THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE COUNTRY
In total, 109 million Russians, who can exercise their right to vote at more than 96,000 polling stations, are called to the polls across the country.
According to the Central Electoral Commission, more than 62% of voters have already participated in the plebiscite.
The process has not exempted the Russian cosmonauts who are on the International Space Station or the Russian expeditionaries who are in the Arctic and Antarctic.