Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered amendments that would allow him to remain in power until 2036 to be put into the Russian Constitution after voters approved the changes during a week-long plebiscite.
According to a copy of the decree released by the Russian government on Friday, the amendments will come into force on Saturday.
“The amendments come into force. They come into force, without overstating it, at the people’s will,” Putin said after he signed a decree to have the constitution revised.
“We made this important decisions together, as a country,” the Russian president said during a video-conference with legislators who worked on drafting the amendments.
The changes allow Putin to run for two more six-year terms after his current one expires in 2024, but also outlaw same-sex marriages, mention the “belief in God as a core value” and emphasise the primacy of Russian law over international norms.
Putin proposed amending the constitution in January and insisted on putting the language on his eligibility for office and the other topics up to a nationwide vote that was not legally required after the changes were approved by Russia’s parliament and rubber-stamped by the country’s Constitutional Court.
The citizens’ vote was initially scheduled for April 22 but postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The balloting concluded on Wednesday amid widespread reports of pressure on voters and other irregularities.
Kremlin critics denounced the results of the plebiscite – with 78 percent “yes” votes and a nearly 68 percent turnout – as falsified and undermining the legitimacy of the amendments.
Central Election Commission Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova rejected the accusations on Friday, saying the results of the vote are “authentic” and their legitimacy is “indisputable”.
“The vote was carried out with the utmost transparency,” she said.
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of Parliament, said on Friday legislators would start working on bills implementing the amendments immediately, without taking their traditional summer break.