Moscow, July 2
Russians opened the door to Vladimir Putin staying in power until 2036 by voting overwhelmingly for constitutional changes that will allow him to run again for president twice, but critics said the outcome was falsified on an industrial scale.
Official results published on Thursday, after 99.9 per cent of ballots had been counted, showed that the former KGB officer, who has ruled Russia for more than two decades as President or Prime Minister, had easily won the right to run for two more six-year terms after the current one ends in 2024.
That means Putin, 67, could rule until the age of 83.
The Central Election Commission said 78 per cent of votes counted across the world's largest country had supported changing the constitution. Just over 21 per cent had voted against it.
Ella Pamfilova, head of the commission, said the vote had been transparent and that officials had done everything to ensure its integrity.
Opposition politician Alexei Navalny had a different view and called the vote an illegitimate and illegal show designed to legalise Putin's presidency for life.
"We'll never recognise this result," Navalny told supporters in a video. —Reuter
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