Putin Adds New Changes to Constitution, Wooing Traditionalists

(Bloomberg) -- The Kremlin added new amendments to the package of constitutional overhauls President Vladimir Putin made last month, appealing to issues likely to boost public support for a plan widely viewed as a bid by the Russian leader to extend his two-decade-old rule.

An updated 24-page list of amendments submitted Monday includes a clause that classifies a marriage as a union of a man and a woman, said Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament, official news agencies reported. The changes also introduce a mention of God, describe Russia as a successor state to the Soviet Union and bar ceding any Russian territory except for border delimitations or criticizing Moscow’s role in the Second World War, state media reported.

The State Duma, the lower chamber, unanimously approved the initial proposals just days after Putin unveiled them in a surprise announcement in January. The revised plan including the latest changes is scheduled for final votes in the Duma on March 10 and 11, and to a nationwide ballot on April 22.

The original amendments, the most dramatic since the constitution was adopted in 1993, would reduce the power of the presidency, giving somewhat more authority to the parliament and strengthening the State Council, now a largely ceremonial body. The overhaul could create options for Putin to retain control after his current term -- his last under constitutional limits -- ends in 2024.

The traditionalist-appealing measures such as safeguarding the sanctity of heterosexual marriage are “needed to ensure as many people as possible come to vote,” said Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. “But the other amendments are more important -- they’re about the division of power.”

So far, the Kremlin’s efforts to drum up public enthusiasm for the proposals have met limited success. A poll released last week by the independent Levada Center said only 25% of Russians were ready to support the plan, while 10% said they would vote against it and another 37% hadn’t made up their minds. Another 23% said they wouldn’t participate. The proposals need to win a majority to take effect, according to the Kremlin plan.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net;Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at skravchenko@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net

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