- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday sought to rally support to hold a nationwide election on July 1 on reforms that include extending his reign until 2036.

His efforts come just one day after a group of roughly 350 polling officials said it is too dangerous to hold the election as the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country and declared that they would not participate in efforts to hold the vote.

“We have a common historical code, moral foundations. … Respect for parents and family (and) love for our soil,” Mr. Putin said during a ceremony in Moscow to mark Russia Day, as quoted by Reuters.

“As you’d expect, there have been frequent requests to include these fundamental, core principles into the Russian constitution,” he continued. “I’m sure that the absolute majority of our citizens share and support such a position.”

In about two weeks, Russians are set to vote on a string of amendments that are part of a package of changes to Russia’s constitution that Mr. Putin, who was expected to step down in 2024 after a quarter-century of de facto rule, sprang on the country two months ago.

Putin allies hustled the measure through the national legislature, and the president made clear that a global pandemic is no reason to delay a popular vote to ratify the changes.

Russia, which has a population of 144.5 million, has reported more than 510,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 6,705 deaths and 268,862 recoveries, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

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