Amidst world protests and the unending pandemic, Russia is facing new worries of its own as a constitutional vote in July could extend Putin’s regime for another two terms, which many citizens likely do not know. Despite the virus, the country was expected to participate in a nationwide vote on different amendments, many of which have been advertised to the public in some format, but not all the changes have been promoted. One of these seemingly undisclosed terms of approving the changes was the motion that it would wipe clean Putin’s presidential record and permit him to serve another 12 consecutive years.
Having been initially nominated in 2012, Putin is approaching the close of his presidency and expected to step down in the year 2024, as the president is only permitted two seamless terms. An eagle-eyed journalist called out the government for creating a website that listed the upcoming options yet failed to list this big alteration at all. The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov brushed this off in an interview quoted by Reuters, explaining, “…maybe it just dropped off when the site was being populated…” leaving some to whisper about an inside coup to keep the president in his seat until 2036.
Many saw his departure from office equating to a big change, especially considering there are many young adults who have never known another leader to their nation. Much of this younger generation is vying for change, with one millenial telling the NY Times, “…it drives me a bit crazy,” when realizing Putin would still be president until she turned 40. Still, this desire for a new figurehead may not come from dissatisfaction with the current standard of living, but rather this idea of unending sameness.
However, older voters do not sympathize with this feeling, seeing Putin as the president that restored their economy over a decade ago. An engineer named Ruslan Parshutin told NPR he remembers when Putin moved up to the presidency from his position of prime minister, “…we had hopes that there would be changes for the better and those hopes were justified, that’s obvious… it’s just enough to look at our city and see how much it has changed.” Those like Parshutin, whose generation has seen a time without Putin at the realm, nearly idolize him and ensure that the president’s approval ratings stay around at least 70%.
Nonetheless, like many countries in the current climate, the Russian people are not all too thrilled with the president’s response to the skyrocketed outbreak of COVID-19 in their country. This is reflected in his latest polling rate of around 60%; his lowest to date. Some speculate there are gimmicks around every corner and that the Kremlin plays a large hand in his continued popularity, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Puskov assured CNN, “…President Putin has stated numerous times that he doesn’t care about his personal ratings, that in politics if you are real statesman, you should not think about your ratings — because if you think about your ratings, you won’t be able to take responsible decisions.”
While much of the U.S. has admittedly been made suspicious of Russia’s government after talks of spies, hacking and involvement in American elections, the reality is that it’s nearly impossible to judge the society from the outside looking in. Unless you live in the nation day-to-day under the president’s rule, and the resulting economy, it is difficult to know the truths behind his presidential impact or have a bias. So, as this third-party correspondent, I can only encourage the Russians to think of this daily life they share and embrace this vote with hope instead of fear. They should remember all the other fundamental rights they can have a say on with this vote and weigh out this modification to the election ballot equally alongside the others. When it is safe for their communities to gather again for voting, they should not shun the poll but take it in democratic stride to try and improve their nation.
After all, though Putin can run again, another election is still coming in which his opposers can always bolster a strong competitor. In the end, let’s just hope the president and his team are truthfully not attempting to sneak anything past the people so loyal to them, should they start receiving cries from the streets matching those currently echoing around America to “defund the police”. No nation deserves this kind of internal psychological warfare.
Honesty and respect must prevail because power and authority are a slippery slope once trust has been broken, no matter how strong the regime.