Staunton, March 16 – Hundreds of Russian scholars, writers and journalists have signed two petitions denouncing Vladimir Putin’s constitutional amendments, the way in which they will allow him to serve as president for life and the manner in which he is pushing them through as an unconstitutional usurpation of power that threatens Russia’s future.
The first, which remains open for signature (echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/2606224-echo/ and docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSclA4ooUoaMbUsczUGKh2B7HZ1NgvL4lB8AVaZz_wt29twiGw/viewform) says that the threat of “a deep constitutional crisis and illegal anti-constitutional coup hands over our country” and calls on everyone to block this “pseudo-legal” move.
It says that “three main circumstances convince us of this.” First, the zeroing out of presidential terms allowing Putin to serve for life violates the letter and spirit of the constitution, treats him as somehow superior to others, and contradicts both “good sense and a sense of justice.”
Second, many of the amendments affect parts of the constitution which are not supposed to be modified except by extraordinary means and that “violate the principle of equality before the law and guarantees of the rights and freedoms of the individual, contradict the principles of federalism, the division of powers, the independence of the judicial system and the autonomy of local administration.”
And third, “we are deeply concerned by the crude violation of the order of adopting amendments to the Constitution” and are convinced that if the amendments adopted in this way are allowed to go into force, this will constitute a destruction of the legal order as established by the existing Constitution and thus be an anti-constitutional coup.”
“Such a development of events will undermine the possibility of the evolutionary development of our country on the basis of the principles of the power and freedoms of the people and threaten to end with a new tragedy of national discord,” the declaration continues.
And it concludes that “recognizing the historical importance of this moment, we all on all citizens who are not indifferent and political and social workers to make all possible efforts for returning the situation to legality and the constitutional order.”
The second declaration issued by the initiative group of the Congress of the Intelligentsia (echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/2606202-echo/) makes many of the same points, demands that the approval process including the referendum be stopped, and concludes that regular changes of those who hold office by means of elections is “the only peaceful and legitimate means of resolving the problems confronting Russia.”