Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Kremlin Highlights Its Own Uncertainties and Fears by Rushing Referendum, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 25 – The Kremlin is pushing forward to hold a referendum on the constitutional amendments next month even though there is no compelling need to do so, Vladimir Pastukhov says, thereby displaying not its power but its “fear and lack of confidence in itself.”

            Instead of postponing the vote on the amendments for six months or even a year – there is no need for anything sooner – or ending “this comedy” and simply declaring that the constitution has been changed, Putin and his team have chosen a third course, the worst of all possible ones, the London-based Russian analyst says (

                With their much-ballyhooed referendum, Pastukhov argues, the powers that be in Moscow want to provide the regime with a fig leaf of legitimacy having failed to consider that “a kind with a fig leaf looks even worse than a naked one – something like a man dressed in a tux on a nudist beech.” 

            If they had to have a referendum, the Kremlin officials could easily have delayed a vote. According to their words, “everything is under control: Putin is almost a god, the opposition is suppressed and divided, the people have been reduced to suspended animation by propaganda,” and everything is just fine, a year ahead of Duma elections and four before presidential ones.

            To be sure, the amendments will give Russia yet another push toward the disaster of neo-totalitarianism, “but there is no obvious need to hurry with its legalization.” Putin has been ruling by “’understandings’” rather than laws and constitutions for 20 years; he can certainly continue to do so for a few more months. And Russia won’t fall apart without them now.

            “Simple good sense,” Pastukhov continues, would dictate postponing things given that no one believes the pandemic will be over by the dates of voting that are currently being discussed. If the Kremlin is as confident as it says, then there is even more reason to postpone a vote that may cause problems.

            Consequently, one is forced to conclude that something here is not right.  Either the Kremlin has plans for some more immediate move or its haste reflects some “deeply irrational” feelings on the part of Putin. And it doesn’t really matter whether there is any genuine foundation for his fears.

            For a long time already, “the Kremlin has been driven by inexplicable fear,” Pastukhov says. And its current haste on the referendum only calls attention to that.  Clearly, in the minds of Putin and his comrades in arms, there is “a profound lack of certainty … about itself, its strength, and the attractiveness of its policies.”

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