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Russians vote on allowing Vladimir Putin to keep power, gay marriage

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to lawmakers in Moscow, Russia, on March 10. Thursday's vote was originally scheduled for April 22 but was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to lawmakers in Moscow, Russia, on March 10. Thursday's vote was originally scheduled for April 22 but was postponed by the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE

June 25 (UPI) -- Polls opened across Russia on Thursday for voting that could allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power for another 12 years and ban gay marriages.

Voters will cast ballots for the next week on proposals for several constitutional amendments. The original voting date of April 22 was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Officials said there were more than 3,600 polling locations in Moscow.

"Everyone is guaranteed the opportunity to vote at a polling station or at home," said Dmitry Reut, deputy chairman of the Moscow City Election Commission.

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One amendment would allow sitting and former presidents to run again for office, no matter how many terms they'd previously served. For Putin, it would allow him to run again when his term expires in 2024.

Another proposal classifies marriage as a union of a man and woman, and critics say it would be another step away from gay rights. Russian officials have previously blocked gay adoptions.

Moscow political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann said in March Thursday's vote is a referendum on traditional values.

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"If turnout is properly high, then this new amended constitution will be legitimized both in the eyes of the internal audience and international community," Schulmann said.

Voters will decide another proposal that would give priority to the Russian Constitution over international treaties and other foreign laws -- an effort to blunt recent moves by European courts to fine Moscow on various rights accusations.

Other amendments would enshrine the phrase "faith in God" in the constitution, expand presidential powers over regional and local authorities and prohibit giving away Russian territory. The latter is connected to Moscow's controversial 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

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