It's a measure of how tightly Putin has controlled the operation to amend Russia's constitution that there's little suspense about the result of a referendum on the changes, despite the economic pain unleashed by the virus. Approval in the vote that concludes July 1 will allow him to seek two more six-year terms after his present one ends in 2024, staying in power until 2036, when he'd be 83.
Still, amid rising public discontent, officials are pulling out all the stops to ensure a high turnout in a vote Putin wasn't obliged to call. While a simple majority in favor and a turnout exceeding 50% of eligible voters is all that's required, the Kremlin won't be happy with anything less than an overwhelming endorsement. It's sought to woo Russians with populist sweeteners such as an effective constitutional ban on gay marriage.