Russia to Hold April Referendum on Putin’s Proposed Political Reform

A senior Russian lawmaker said Wednesday that the authorities are planning to hold a public vote on April 22 on the controversial constitutional reforms proposed by President Vladimir Putin, New Day News reports.

Pavel Krasheninnikov, a lawmaker with Putin’s ruling United Russia party, told local news agencies that a working group had proposed the date at a meeting Wednesday and Putin had agreed.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich just agreed to this (proposal) so we will proceed as such,” Krasheninnikov was quoted as saying, referring to President Putin and adding that the day would be a public holiday.

The working group had proposed the date as it falls between the Orthodox Christian Easter on April 19 and the beginning of Ramadan on April 24 for Muslims, the second-largest religious group in Russia.

Putin promised the popular vote after he last month proposed an overhaul of the Russian constitution, triggering the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his government.

The proposals — which took Russians and most of the establishment by surprise — stirred speculation that Putin, 67, was maneuvering to extend his hold on power after his fourth Kremlin term expires in 2024.

The proposed reforms include boosting the role of the State Council, currently an advisory body, giving more responsibilities to parliament, and introducing more stringent requirements for public officials.

Russian lawmakers have unanimously approved a bill on the reforms in a first reading.

Krasheninnikov, the co-chief of the constitutional working group, said a second reading would take place on March 10.

It is unclear what exact form the vote will take, but it will likely be a consultative plebiscite rather than a binding referendum.

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