Putin postpones public vote on reforms amid coronavirus pandemic

The vote, on changes that would allow Putin to run again for president, had been planned for April 22.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin did not name a new date for the vote [Reuters]
    Russian President Vladimir Putin did not name a new date for the vote [Reuters]

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed the public vote on his constitutional reforms, saying that the health and safety of citizens was his main priority amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    The vote, on changes that include scrapping a constitutional ban on Putin running again for president in 2024, had been planned for April 22.

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    "We see how severely the coronavirus epidemic is developing in the world, in many countries the number of cases is continuing to grow, the whole world economy is under threat," Putin said in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday.

    Russia recorded its biggest one-day rise in infections so far on Wednesday, with 163 new cases of a total of 658 across the country.

    "The absolute priority for us is the health, life and safety of people. Therefore I believe that the vote should be postponed until a later date," the president added.

    As coronavirus spreads in Europe, hospitals are overwhelmed

    Already approved by parliament and Russia's Constitutional Court, the new rules would reset Putin's presidential term tally to zero. That would give the former KGB officer, who has dominated Russia's political landscape for two decades, the right to serve two more back-to-back six-year terms.

    The constitution currently lets a president serve two consecutive terms, meaning Putin would have to leave office in four years.

    The reforms also enshrine a mention of Russians' "faith in God" and stipulate that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, effectively banning gay marriages.

    The amendments ban giving away Russian territory and outlaw calls promoting such a move, as well as protecting the "historic truth" about the country's role in World War II.

    Putin did not name a new date for the vote, saying only that he and others would listen to medical advice and evaluate the situation to decide when the time for a new vote was right.

    SOURCE: News agencies