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What does Putin's resounding win mean to India?

Vladimir Putin
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Vladimir Putin

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Russians have blessed Putin with a long-lasting power to rule them by voting overwhelmingly for constitutional changes so that he could stay in power till 2036

Russians have blessed Putin with a long-lasting power to rule them by voting overwhelmingly for constitutional changes so that he could stay in power till 2036. Official results published on July 2, after 99.9 percent of ballots had been counted, showed that the former KGB officer who has ruled Russia for more than 20 years as President or Prime Minister had won the right to run for two more six-year terms after the current one ends in 2024. What does it mean? Well, that means Putin, 67, could rule until the age of 83.

The Central Election Commission said 77.9 percent of votes counted across the world's largest country by area had supported changing the Constitution. About 21 percent had voted against, it said. Ella Pamfilova, head of the commission, said the vote had been transparent and that officials had done everything to ensure its integrity. As usual this time around too, the Opposition held a different view calling the result an illegitimate show designed to legalise Putin's presidency for life.

"We'll never recognise this result," Navalny, the Opposition leader, told supporters in a video. Navalny said the Opposition would not protest for now because of the coronavirus pandemic but would do so in big numbers in the autumn if its candidates were blocked from taking part in regional elections or its results were falsified. "What Putin fears most is the street," said Navalny.

"He will not leave until we start to take to the streets in the hundreds of thousands and in the millions." Whether or not Putin fears the streets - available evidence does not indicate much - is to be seen. However, certain strange manipulations did take place in the elections.

Russians had been encouraged to back Putin's power move, described by critics as a constitutional coup, with prize draws offering flats and an advertisement campaign highlighting other constitutional amendments in the same reform bundle, such as pensions protection and a de facto ban on same-sex marriages. One-off payments of 10,000 roubles ($141) were transferred to those with children at Putin's order as people headed to polling stations on July 1, the last day of the vote, held over seven days to try to limit the spread of the virus.

It is strange that not just prizes, but even money was transferred to people just before they voted. How do you see it? Anyone who knows Putin will agree that he is bound to contest again. Putin has been in power for 20 years and could be so for 36 years too. There are charges against Putin that he gets his elections designed in a certain fashion. Well, now that the inevitable happened in Russia, what should India do vis a vis with its relations? Should India go for a recalibration of its equations with Russia given the uncertainties in the US? Russia had always been a great friend of India and we need to keep that in mind. Secondly, keeping in view the geopolitical realities, Russia has a greater bearing in our region than the US. It is crucial to us that we have a relook at our own region even as we take on China in every respect.

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