Russian Communists reject Putin’s constitution power grab

The Russian Federation is due to hold a national referendum between 25 June and 1 July 2020 on amendments to the federal constitution proposed by Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party. The amendments include changes which would potentially allow Putin to maintain his grip on power as president for a further two six-year terms. Putin’s current term in office ends in 2024.

Putin was president for two consecutive terms from 1999 – 2008 before switching places with his puppet prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, for a term to overcome the bar on a third consecutive term. Medvedev then cleared the way for Putin to run again in 2012 for his ‘first term’ (third), followed by his ‘second’ (forth) consecutive term in 2018. Each and every one of Putin’s victories have been marred by clear vote rigging at the expense of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). The same murky practices have been used by the ruling party in local and regional elections and elections to the State Duma.

In response to the ruling party’s proposed changes to the constitution, the Presidium of the Central Committee of the KPRF has issued a statement signed by chairman Gennady Zyuganov.

Statement of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the KPRF

1 July has been announced as the date of voting on amendments to the Russian Constitution. Some of them are important and promising. However, on the whole they are not conducive to renunciation of presidential rule by fiat and the power of the oligarchy. The amendments introduced do not make Russia a social state. They do not protect society from the destructive impact of Russophobia and anti-Sovietism.

The position of the KPRF on the “all-Russia vote” is based on concrete conclusions and firm principles.

We did not vote for the Yeltsin constitution rammed through in 1993. This document is saturated with the blood of the defenders of the House of the Soviets, the smoke of the war in Chechnya and the tears of the humiliated and the robbed. It legitimised the thievish privatisation, opened the floodgates for decimation of the economy and healthcare, science, culture and education. Ever since that time our party has been staunchly fighting for a revision of the constitution on the basis of the key principle: power and property to the people.

When the constitutional reform was launched we immediately joined that work. The KPRF submitted 108 amendments to the Main Law. We called for a broad discussion of these amendments. The authorities have in fact ignored 15 key provisions aimed at a drastic change of the socio-economic course. The United Russia parliamentary majority rejected all our laws that would have improved the position of the working people.

The amendments put to the vote on 1 July do not change the essence of the Main Law under which Russia has been made to live over the last quarter of a century. The “governing party” effectively refuses to change the course of the ship “Russia”; in a peaceful and democratic way. The new edition of the constitution strengthens presidential diktat and consolidates oligarchic rule which leads the country towards a catastrophe. Unless the course is changed in the interests of the people today the country will see deepening cleavages, a severe crisis and chaos. We see that global speculative capitalism is in disarray. It is time to stop taking the cue from senile capitalism and head towards a society of justice and all-round progress, towards a socialist society.

Amendments to the Main Law cannot be adopted in haste. We have already called for convening a Constitutional Assembly and submitted a draft law on how to form it. Instead United Russia rushed amendments through the State Duma. They have been promptly endorsed by the Federation Council. The President has announced that they have been approved. Under these conditions the 1 July vote has largely a ritual character. It does not have the status of a referendum and is at odds with the electoral law. All this is added proof of the falsehood of bourgeois democracy.

The Central Electoral Committee organises the “all-Russia vote”; under a dubious procedure. The vote will not be taken on each concrete amendment. One can only vote “for” or “against” all amendments at once. The door is wide open for vote-rigging. Voting will last several days. The authorities are urging people to vote electronically or by mail, which puts the process outside public control. It is a testing ground for new methods of falsifying future elections.

Real politics call for active participation of the masses. A boycott of the “all-Russia” vote will be of no avail. To be a citizen means to struggle for the country’s destiny. The authorities must know the position of the citizens and reckon with their will. We are sure that everyone should express their opinion as their conscience and concern for the future of their children and grandchildren bid them. Everyone must decide whether to vote for a new edition of the Yeltsin constitution. Our answer is no. We cannot support this document. This was the case in 1993, and this will be the case now.

The KPRF comes out for a thorough overhaul of the Main Law. Cosmetic changes will not do. The key needs of the country and the people cannot be ignored. Therefore we will continue to advocate the calling of a Constitutional Assembly. An honest and legitimate vote. A full-fledged referendum. A constitution of people’s rule and justice.

Our alternative is a programme to mobilise Russia to ensure dynamic forward movement. It envisages the creation of a Popular Trust Government, nationalisation of key sectors of the economy, strategic and tactical planning, making of a development budget, revival of science and culture, education and healthcare, scrapping of plans to raise the retirement age, support of people’s enterprises and a range of other measures.

The coronavirus pandemic and the surge of panic have aggravated crisis phenomena in the world economy. This breeds discontent of millions of people. It has erupted even in the USA which has been swept by street rioting. Global capitalism is unable to deal with the problems it has itself engendered. The systemic crisis poses a mortal threat to the world. Socialist principles alone can ward it off. The KPRF wants to see them included in the Main Law and implemented confidently and steadfastly.

Challenge News Desk

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