Constitutional vote 2020 reflects the evolution of Russian society and statehood
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July 1, 2020 saw an important event in the history of modern Russia - a nationwide constitutional vote to introduce amendments to the constitution of the Russian Federation.
According to Russia’s Central Election Commission, 77.92% of our compatriots voted in favour of introducing the amendments, while 21.27% voted otherwise. The overall turnout is also remarkable for that kind of event - 67.97%. This alone indicates how profoundly important the referendum was for us Russians.
It is not surprising that the constitutional vote attracted the attention of foreign media, including South Africa’s. What is surprising though is that the overwhelming majority of pieces on this matter seemed to concentrate on only one detail - the reset of the term count of the incumbent President of Russia Vladimir Putin.
This is the only constitutional amendment that has been and still is widely discussed and highlighted by the Western information outlets. The picture is pretty much the same here, in South Africa, mainly due to massive republication of the Western press materials in local media.
In such an information environment, one may get an impression that resetting the presidential term was the only reason to hold a referendum. At least that is the picture that the Western media (which knowingly hold anti-Russian positions) are trying to paint. In our turn we believe that such a view is one-sided, to say the least.
In reality, the constitutional vote has a much deeper social and historic background and the amendments bundle is much more multifaceted.
Not all of them may have equal social importance but they do reflect the evolution of Russian society and statehood. The Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted on December 12, 1993.
We might even say that Russia-1993 and Russia-2020 are two different countries and Russians in 1993 and in 2020 make two very different societies. So what are those amendments and why are they important?
For example, there is a group of amendments designed to improve the quality of life of the citizens including the reinforced guarantees of quality medicine affordable for everyone, and constitutional minimum of pensions and salaries.
They also recognise children as top priority of Russia’s social policy and guarantee to create a favourable environment for children’s balanced development.
These amendments make the Russian Federation a more social-welfare state - something it could not fully afford back in 1993 due to economic weakness. By the way, it is this set of amendments that made experts of liberal democratic school of thought even describe the new version of the constitution as the “left-socialist”.
Another important block of amendments is dedicated to reinforcement of Russian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Again, as an example, one of them stipulates that Russian State must not assume international obligations that run counter to the Constitution.
Russia’s fundamental law now authorises the Russian constitutional court to decide whether Russia must fulfil the decisions of international bodies, including courts, if such decisions contradict the Russian Constitution.
This makes our legal system more stable, protected from foreign influence. Then, of course, it goes without saying that no development can be achieved without peace, and that is one of the main purposes of this group of amendments - to guarantee the protection throughout all Russian territory, enshrine readiness of the State to render such protection regardless of the threat.
The amendments are also designed to reflect Russian mentality and values.
Mentioning of God, family as the basis of our society, recognising marriage as a union exactly between a man and a woman - these are the traditional values that Russia has been consistently advocating.
It runs counter to today’s Western liberal mainstream and Russians are well aware of that.
But this is how we see the future of our homeland, this is what we stand for and that’s the way we want to live. Yes, we want a paternalistic State headed by a strong leader - this has always been a part of Russian mentality.
As you can see, the constitutional vote of July 1, 2020 has a much deeper meaning for Russians, way beyond restarting presidential terms. It was all about legally recognising our traditional values as such and taking the next step in building a stronger, better Russia for all. Our people have spoken and their decision must be respected.
* Ilya Rogachev is the ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.