By Arthur Evans – As the whole world prepares to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, constitutional reform is underway in Russia. In January, a committee met to make constitutional changes. Opponents of authorities in the Kremlin have come forward with the main argument that the goal of changes is to strengthen Vladimir Putin’s presidential power after his fourth term expires. However, constitutional reforms have far-reaching goals. The new constitution includes amendments related to the indivisibility of Russian territory, as well as greater refocusing to traditional values and guarantees of the welfare state. The new constitution should have a foothold in traditionalist sections of society.
After the new constitution was adopted, even in formal terms, there could be no question of the division of the territory of the Russian Federation. The new proposal in the constitution prohibits any possibility of secession of Russian territories under any conditions. These decisions primarily relate to countries that want “a rematch”, like Ukraine losing Crimea, and Japan, which is insisting on the issue of the Kuril Islands. There are also smaller states like Estonia and Latvia that have historic claims to small territories in the Pskov and Leningrad regions. Moscow has sent a final signal – all these requests will be ignored. The Kremlin is certainly aware that this initiative is creating tension in international relations, but no matter what, they are ready for any challenge.
Social issues amendments, in accordance with the new social programs promised by Vladimir Putin, will also be introduced into the constitution. In this field, pro-Kremlin circles will have a strong argument, as they will be able to accuse the opposing side of criticizing constitutional changes against social support for the population.
The latest corrections proposed by Vladimir Putin himself on March 2 concern traditional values and the key issue of marriage. Marriage can only be between man and woman. Russia is in a demographic crisis if it compares the growth tendencies in the Soviet Union and the fact that from a once large area with almost 300 million inhabitants today there are only about 147 million. Also, Russia is characterized as a “homophobic” nation, so this article of the constitution will surely have the support of the largest part of the population. The biggest problems are the aging of the population, brain drain, and the lack of younger human resources. At the beginning of 2020, the Kremlin brings a series of social programs in an economic situation that cannot be described as great for Russia. Social programs refer to large financial support for newborns. Now that traditional marriage is cemented in the constitution, further measures can be expected to protect it, such as a ban on abortion, tougher divorce regulations and other measures to support families.
Among the “controversial changes” to the constitution, at least from the perspective of the opposition, there is a part related to the expansion of powers of some of the structures of government. Comparing the number of voters who will be in favor of or against specific constitutional changes, it is considered that the patriotically and traditionally oriented part of the population will prevail.
There is no doubt that on April 22, Russian voters will express their utmost support for Vladimir Putin, who will bring constitutional changes that are of critical importance for Russia’s future development. Winning the April 22 referendum will be another confirmation of the support of much of the population in the face of Western economic pressure through sanctions and the Coronavirus panic.