All across Russia, members of the Yabloko party conducted one-person pickets on 12 March against the reset of the presidential term of Vladimir Putin and other constitutional amendments introduced by the President.
One-person pickets - which do not require any permission from the authorities - were conducted outside the buildings of legislative assemblies and regional dumas in more than 50 regions, and all on the day all regional parliaments are set to give their approval to President Putin’s constitutional amendments.
Deputies from Yabloko voted against Putin’s amendments. In Karelia, the Khabarovsk Territory and the Pskov Region, the only votes against were cast only by Yabloko’s MPs. In the Moscow City Duma, the Yabloko faction was the only faction which did not support the nullification of the presidential terms of Vladimir Putin and his other constitutional amendments. Yabloko deputies in St Petersburg and Asrekhan also voted against Putin’s amendments.
YABLOKO founder Grigory Yavlinsky has described the amendments and “resetting” of the presidential terms as unlawful: “both in content and in form, the entire process of changing the Constitution of Russia, carried out by Putin since January 15, 2020, is unlawful. Everything that happens is a mine for our future. Sooner or later, the Constitution of the country will be justifiably recognised by society or its part as unlawful, and this will become the subject of acute civil conflict.”
“In this situation, the country and the people turn out to be hostages of the adventure of people who, in virtue of circumstances, were vested with enormous power, but who did not realise their responsibility adequate to this power,” he writes. “These people are guided by momentary political motives, the main of which is the retention of power, the voluntarist adaptation of the state to its corporate goals and very questionable ideas about the historical and philosophical essence of Russia, as well as its place and role in the world. And these unfortunate rulers are simply unable to assess the nature and the scope of the consequences of their actions.”
Lev Shlosberg, Yabloko member of the Pskov Regional Assembly, said while voting against: “Who of those supporting the perpetuation of Putin’s power wants a breakup pf the country?” I think that no one. Then what is driving you [in the adoption of Putin’s constitutional amendments]? Fear of ceasing to be part of power? Hope for a miraculous deliverance from the trouble? Despair of the impossibility to change something personally? But it is precisely all of us, politicians, chosen by people, that ordinary citizens are looking at. If we are afraid, they are even more afraid. If we are cowardly, then they are afraid. When usurpation of power occurs in a country, we should not agree to it. We must speak up. We must word it. We must disagree. We must protest. We must protect the rights of citizens.”
On Friday 13 March, Yabloko members continued their one-person protests by metro stations in Moscow. Yabloko founder Grigory Yavlinsky joined the picketing. His placard read “No to usurpation of power”.
Both the chambers of the Russian parliament (the State Duma and the Federation Council) approved the amendments on March 11 and 14 respectively. Today, three days after all of Russia’s Regional Assemblies approved the bill on amendments to the Constitution and the Federation Council confirmed their decisions, the country’s Constitutional Court has approved constitutional amendments that would set Putin's previous presidential term count back to zero and could enable President Putin to stay in power for another 16 years.
His current term, his second consecutive six-year term, is slated to end in 2024. The existing Constitution does not allow Presidents to serve more than two consecutive terms, but the proposed amendments would enable him to seek a fifth overall presidential term in 2024, and conceivably a sixth in 2030…
Final approval will come if more than half of the country's voters support it in a nationwide plebiscite scheduled for April 22. A poll that is now “being considered” being delayed by the Kremlin due to the emerging Coronavirus situation in Russia.