This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has set July 1 as the date for the national vote on constitutional amendments that among other things would allow him to remain in power until 2036.
Putin announced the decision at a meeting with co-chairs of the working group on the preparation of the bill on June 1.
Ella Pamfilova, the chairwoman of the Central Election Committee, said she supports the idea, adding that the voting will start seven days prior the official date in order to avoid large crowds.
Pamfilova also said that in two or three regions an electronic voting system will be used, though she did not say which regions.
The bill of constitutional amendments was approved by lawmakers and approved by the Constitutional Court in March.
It was expected to be put to a national vote on April 22, but this was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Putin’s critics have said that he initiated the amendments to secure power for another 12 years after his current term ends in 2024 by resetting his previous presidential term count back to zero.
The move has sparked protests in Russian cities and towns.
Putin’s current term, his second consecutive six-year term, began in 2018. The existing constitution prohibits presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms, but the amendments would enable him to seek a fifth overall presidential term in 2024, and conceivably a sixth in 2030.
Final approval of the changes will come if more than half of the country’s voters support them in the nationwide vote.
Putin, a 67-year old former KGB officer, has ruled Russia as president or prime minister for more than 20 years.