Russia’s Putin appeals to patriotism as key vote reaches climax

(BBC) – All week, millions of Russians have been voting to reform their constitution, many using polling stations set up on tree stumps, park benches and even car boots.

Giant prize draws have helped entice them to the ballot, with the chance of winning everything from shopping vouchers to a car or flat.

Opposition figures have dismissed the whole process as a farce, stretched over seven days with no proper monitoring or independent scrutiny.

But for the Kremlin the amendments are vital. The vote will clear the way for Vladimir Putin to stay in power up to 2036, if he chooses.

Putin’s vision of Russia

Not that the president mentioned that in his address to the nation ahead of the final day of voting.

“We are voting for the country we want to live in… and which we want to hand down to our children,” Mr Putin declared, standing beneath a giant, ghostly new statue of a Soviet soldier, to underline the “patriotic” theme that runs through this process.

The biggest overhaul of the constitution since 1993, this vote is partly about setting down Vladimir Putin’s vision of Russia: spelling out the values and priorities he has established during two decades in the Kremlin.

“Putin can’t just say to himself, ‘I need to do everything possible to stay in power!’,” argues Tatiana Stanovaya, the head of R.Politik, a political think-tank.

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