Opinion Poll Shows Putin May Extend Rule

Russian state opinion pollster VTsIOM said on Monday that its exit polls showed that 76% of Russians had so far voted to support reforms that could allow President Vladimir Putin to extend his rule until 2036, Reuters reported.

The nationwide vote on constitutional reforms began on June 25 and is being held over seven days as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic.

If approved, the changes would allow Putin to run twice for president again after his current term expires in 2024.

The pollster said 76% of those who had so far voted had backed the reforms and that 23.6% of people who agreed to be polled after voting said they had voted against.

It said it had polled 163,124 voters at 800 polling stations in 25 Russian regions.

The results are roughly in line with projections ahead of the vote based on previous polls by VTsIOM.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he saw no problem making preliminary results public before July 1.

“This is not competitive voting, not elections,” he told reporters when asked whether such disclosure could be considered as pressure on Russians who have yet to make their decision. Putin will vote in person, Peskov said but declined to say when.

The Kremlin’s critics say the vote is a sham and they fear it will be rigged.