On June 25, the vote on amendments to the Russian constitution started in all the 14 administrative regions of Russia’s Far Eastern federal district, according to state media citing regional election commissions and administrative bodies. The official vote is scheduled for July 1, but authorities opened polling stations a week early to stop overcrowding amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposed amendments will allow to strengthen the system of governance and limit a president’s rule to two six-year terms in total, rather than two consecutive terms, (allowing Vladimir Putin to potentially participate in the next presidential election). Besides this, they will introduce economic changes needed to provide Russian citizens with an additional social and economic security, an affirmation of Russia’s “faith in God”, and entrench the definition of the marriage as a unity of a man and a women. These conservative (both social and economic) moves go contrary to the neo-liberal agenda promoted by the so-called ‘united West’.
On the same day, the US embassy in Russia, central Moscow, raised a LGBT flag alongside with a US flag on its building. This move likely directly ordered by US Ambassador to Russia John J. Sullivan and was designed to demonstrate the US official position towards the current constitutional vote in Russia.
It is an open secret that the majority of the Russian population is against the official promotion of LGBT and neo-liberal values that became mainstream in the West. Even in the biggest cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg, the number of people supporting so-called ‘neo-liberal’ values does not exceed about 5%. There is a Russian federal law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values” that bans LGBT propaganda among people under 18yo. In these conditions, the move of the US embassy could be described as an intentional provocation.
At the same time, the voting on amendments to the Russian constitution also caused mixed feelings among residents of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and some other large cities that just recently experienced often strange and contradictory actions of local authorities in the conditions of the COVID-19 crisis. This included the increased administrative pressure, including various fees, and the drastic electronic surveillance measures employed by Moscow authorities. A one more point of contradictions is that the proposed amendments will allow Vladimir Putin to participate in the next presidential election potentially allowing him to lead Russia until 2036. These factors are behind reports that a part of Moscow residents has opted to not participate in the voting. There is also a segment of uncommitted voters. Nonetheless, both these groups support traditional values and the definition of the marriage proposed in the amendments.
Over the past weeks, Russian citizens have been able to follow the situation in the United States, where LGBT activists were supporting left wing and black rioters. The June 25 action initiated by the US Ambassador will motivate a part of uncommitted voters to support the conservative changes to the constitution.
In this situation, the US embassy decision is a foolery or an agitation trick in support of the “YES” vote. Mr. Putin should thank US diplomats or even give a state decoration to Mr. Sullivan.
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