2020 Russian constitutional referendum

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2020 Russian constitutional referendum
Do you agree with the amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation?[1]
Results by federal subject
Blank map of Russia-gray.svg
  Yes     No

A constitutional referendum will be held in Russia in 2020.[2] The referendum was proposed by President Vladimir Putin during his address to the Federal Assembly on 15 January 2020.[3] The draft amendments to the Constitution were submitted to a referendum in accordance with article 2 of the Law on Amendments to the Constitution.[4]

The referendum is referred to as an "All-Russian vote", as it is not held in accordance with the Federal Constitutional Law on the Referendum. Unlike a referendum carried out in accordance with the referendum law, voters will be asked whether they approve the entire revised constitution as a whole, rather than approving each amendment separately.[5] The 1993 referendum on the adoption of the constitution was held in the same manner. The 2020 referendum will be the first since the 1993 vote.

The voting was originally scheduled for 22 April, but due to the coronavirus pandemic the vote was postponed to a later date.[6] It had been noted that the initial vote date coincided with Lenin’s 150th birthday.[7][8]

The amendments include one allowing President Putin to run again for two more six-year presidential terms, something he has not yet ruled out, in which critics have accused him of plotting to stay in power for life, while supporters have lauded the inclusion of the amendment.[9]

Proposed amendments[edit]

For the first time, Vladimir Putin announced possible amendments to the Constitution during his press conference on 19 December 2019.[10][11][12] He said that he is ready to discuss changing the constitutional norms. In particular, he spoke about strengthening the role of the Parliament and canceling the clause "in a row" from the article regulating the maximum number of terms of the presidency (it is thanks to this reservation that Putin was able to be elected President again in 2012, receiving an actual third term of the presidency).

In more detail, Putin spoke about the amendments during his address to the Parliament on 15 January 2020. In addition to the amendments mentioned during the press conference, Putin also proposed a number of amendments to improve social policy and public administration.[13] Immediately after the address, Putin formed a working group to prepare amendments to the Constitution, which included 75 people, including politicians, legislators, scholars and public figures.[14]


On 20 January 2020, President Vladimir Putin submitted the draft amendments to the State Duma. In total, 14 articles will be changed. In general, the following amendments are proposed:[4][15][16]

  • The Russian Constitution should take precedence over international law;
  • the State Duma (the lower house of Parliament) should have the right to approve the Prime Minister's candidacy (currently it only gives consent to his appointment). The State Duma will also be able to approve the candidates of Deputy Prime Ministers and Federal Ministers; the President will not be able to refuse their appointment, but in some cases will be able to remove them from office;
  • persons who hold "important positions for ensuring the country's security" (President, Ministers, judges, heads of regions) should not have foreign citizenship or a residence permit in other countries, either at the time of their work in office or, in the case of the President, at any time before;
  • A presidential candidate must live in Russia for at least 25 years (currently 10 years);
  • the Federation Council (the upper house of Parliament) will be able to propose to the President to dismiss Federal judges; in some cases, the Federation Council, on the proposal of the President, will have the right to remove judges of the Constitutional and Supreme courts;
  • heads of law enforcement agencies must be appointed by the President in consultation with the Federation Council;
  • the minimum wage cannot be lower than the subsistence minimum;
  • regular indexation of pensions;
  • consolidation of the status and role of the State Council (at present it is only an advisory body and is not prescribed in the Constitution);
  • granting the Constitutional Court the ability to check the constitutionality of laws adopted by the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation at the request of the President before they are signed by the President;
  • remove the "in a row" clause from the article regulating the maximum number of presidential terms, discounting previous presidential terms before the amendment enters into force.

Proposed adoption without a referendum[edit]

Putin noted that Russia’s parliament is legally capable of changing the Constitution, but he argued that a national vote is necessary to make the amendments legitimate.[17] While Putin said the package of amendments should be put to a nationwide vote, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that vote does not entail a referendum.[18] On January 20 Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted a bill on constitutional amendments to the State Duma (the lower house of parliament).[19][20] The renewal of the Constitution proposed by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin requires neither a referendum, nor convening of the Constitutional Assembly.[21]

Proposed consultative All-Russia voting[edit]


The current Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted by "nationwide voting" on December 12, 1993. This is an official term with legal meaning. Amendments or a new constitution can be also adopted by "nationwide voting".

Second Section
Concluding and Transitional Provisions
1. The Constitution of the Russian Federation shall come into force from the moment of its official publication according to the results of a nationwide voting.
1993 Constitution of Russia

Article 3 of the 1993 Constitution of Russia says:

The supreme direct expression of the power of the people shall be referendum and free elections.


2. If a proposal on the review of the provisions of Chapters 1, 2 and 9 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation is supported by three fifths of the total number of the members of the Council of the Federation and the deputies of the State Duma, then according to federal constitutional law a Constitutional Assembly shall be convened.
3. The Constitutional Assembly shall either confirm the invariability of the Constitution of the Russian Federation or draft a new Constitution of the Russian Federation, which shall be adopted by the Constitutional Assembly by two thirds of the total number of its members or submitted to a nationwide voting. In case of a nationwide voting the Constitution of the Russian Federation shall be considered adopted, if over half of the voters who came to the polls supported it and under the condition that over half of the electorate participated in the voting.

Therefore, "referendum" (Russian: референдум, romanizedreferendum), "free elections" (Russian: свободные выборы, romanizedsvobodnyye vybory) and "nationwide voting" (Russian: всенародное голосование, romanizedvsenarodnoye golosovaniye) are provisioned by the Constitution. 50%+ turnout are obligatory for "nationwide voting" according to the Article 135 of the 1993 Constitution of Russia.

The Federal Constitutional Law on the Referendum was adopted in 1995. A period of campaign, 50%+ turnout and international democratic electoral standards are obligatory for a referendum. The results of a referendum are obligatory and can't be changed unless a new referendum. A consultative referendum is not provisioned in Russia.


On the other hand, Putin’s statement that a “final decision” will be made only after the voting process can be interpreted to mean that the vote itself will not be binding. According to the Constitution, however, that is not the case: The results of a nationwide vote must be enforced as is. This means that a referendum would be conducted as an extraconstitutional procedure (much like an online poll).[22] Critics have accused Putin of orchestrating a "constitutional coup" and seeking to fast-track changes to the country's political system without going through proper procedures including a referendum.[23]

All-Russian voting[edit]

The renewal of the Constitution requires neither a referendum, nor convening of the Constitutional Assembly,[21] but "All-Russian voting" (Russian: общероссийское голосование, romanizedobshcherossiyskoye golosovaniye) is provisioned by Article 2 of the draft law on making amendments to the Russian Constitution[4][24] Putin introduced this term for the first time and it is not a legal term with clear definition. All-Russian voting is not provisioned by the constitution or mentioned in any federal laws, regional laws or any other legal documents.


Opposition movements, parties and politicians took a different attitude towards voting.

On 28 February the head of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Russia Ella Pamfilova announced the abolition of the scientific and expert council at the commission, explaining this with its “absolutely unacceptable” form and “absolute anachronism”. Shortly before this, according to RBC, a number of board members wrote a letter criticizing the upcoming vote. Former board member and editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy radio station Alexei Venediktov publicly opposed expanding opportunities for early and home-based voting because of the inability to observe him, which, in his opinion, could lead to “discreditation of voting results,” and linked the dissolution of the council with a negative the attitude of its members to the upcoming vote.[25]

According to political analyst Alexander Pozhalov and founder of the Yabloko party, Grigory Yavlinsky, voting on the amendments will essentially become a referendum on Putin's support, and, according to Yavlinsky, it opens the way to his lifelong rule.[26]

Opinion polls[edit]

Date Pollster For Against Undecided Lead
11 March 2020 WCIOM 64% 15% 21% 49%
10 March 2020 President Vladimir Putin supported the amendment to the Constitution to reset the terms of the President of Russia and refused to hold snap legislative election
6 March 2020 WCIOM 42% 17% 41% 25%
7 March 2020 CIPKR 29% 17% 52% 23%
6 March 2020 WCIOM 42% 17% 41% 25%
3 March 2020 WCIOM 55% 12% 33% 30%
20–26 February 2020 Levada Center 25% 10% 37% 12%
12 February 2020 WCIOM 46% 16% 38% 30%
29–31 January 2020 Levada Center 72% 13% 15% 59%


  1. ^ "Стал известен вопрос для голосования по поправкам в Конституцию". Российская газета.
  2. ^ "Голосование по поправкам в Конституцию пройдет 22 апреля". Ведомости. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  3. ^ "Путин предложил провести "всенародное голосование" по пакету поправок в Конституцию". Интерфакс. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  4. ^ a b c "№885214-7 Законопроект :: Система обеспечения законодательной деятельности". sozd.duma.gov.ru.
  5. ^ Public vote on constitutional amendments will be held on the law as a whole — official TASS
  6. ^ "Путин объявил о переносе голосования по Конституции". МК.RU.
  7. ^ "Politics and pandemics". The Economist. 13 March 2020.
  8. ^ "Russia announces date for referendum that could extend Putin's rule". abcNews. 27 February 2020.
  9. ^ "First woman in space brought down to earth by anger over bid to prolong Putin rule". Reuters. 13 March 2020. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  10. ^ "Путин предложил изменить Конституцию". Коммерсантъ. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  11. ^ "Планируемые поправки в Конституцию РФ: президентские предложения". ГАРАНТ.РУ. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  12. ^ "Зачем Путин заговорил об изменении Конституции. Мнения политологов". Ведомости. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  13. ^ "Владимир Путин предложил вынести на обсуждение ряд поправок в Конституцию". НТВ. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  14. ^ "Working group set up to draft proposals for amending the Constitution". Kremlin.ru. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  15. ^ "Рабочая группа назвала требующие корректировки статьи Конституции". RBK Group. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  16. ^ "Law on amendment to Russian Federation Constitution". President of Russia. Retrieved 2020-03-15.
  17. ^ "Putin proposes national referendum on Russian Constitutional amendments — Meduza". Meduza.io. 2020-01-15. Retrieved 2020-03-10.
  18. ^ Times, The Moscow (January 16, 2020). "What Changes is Putin Planning for Russia's Constitution?". The Moscow Times.
  19. ^ "Putin submits bill on constitutional amendments to State Duma". TASS.
  20. ^ "Putin submits constitutional amendment to Duma authorizing president to form State Council". TASS.
  21. ^ a b "No referendum required to amend Russia's Constitution – rights advocate". RAPSI.
  22. ^ "Putin wants to give Russian law priority over international law without an entirely new constitution. Technically, that's not legally possible. — Meduza". Meduza.io. 2020-01-15. Retrieved 2020-03-10.
  23. ^ "Putin sends political plan to MPs in quick-fire Russia reform push". news.yahoo.com.
  24. ^ "Public vote on constitutional amendments will be held on the law as a whole — official". TASS.
  25. ^ https://openmedia.io/news/n1/glava-cik-raspustila-ekspertnyj-sovet-posle-ego-kritiki-golosovaniya-po-konstitucii/
  26. ^ https://www.rbc.ru/politics/10/03/2020/5e679af19a79477f4ca7613d RBK Group

External links[edit]