Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday on winning a controversial plebiscite on constitutional changes that, among other things, allow him to remain in power until 2036.
“This event is indeed of fundamental importance for the further strengthening of Russian statehood,” Pashinian wrote in a congratulatory message to Putin released by his office.
“I am confident that the amendments to the constitution approved by the overwhelming majority of Russians will create favorable conditions for your country’s continued progress and socioeconomic development,” he said.
According to Russia’s Central Election Commission, 77.9 percent of voters endorsed the Kremlin-backed package of more than 200 changes to the Russian constitution. The most-controversial of them is one that resets Putin’s term-limit clock to zero, opening the way for him to run for reelection when his current six-year term expires in 2024 and again in 2030.
The Kremlin has said the amendments are necessary for the country’s stability and security, while Putin’s critics charge they are a bid for the 67-year-old to secure power for life.
The non-binding vote was marred by reports of irregularities at some polling stations and intimidation of activists and journalists. The European Union urged Russia on Thursday to investigate them.
For its part, the U.S. mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe issued a statement saying it is “troubled by reports of Russian government efforts to manipulate the result of the vote.”