Poll finds Russians split over allowing Putin to extend rule

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video link, held by leaders from the Group of 20 to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impacts, at his residence outside Moscow, Russia March 26, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is sharply divided over a constitutional change that would allow President Vladimir Putin to extend his rule until 2036, an opinion poll published on Friday has found.

The poll by the Levada Centre found 6% of 1,624 people of different ages polled across Russia from March 19-25 said they were unable to answer the questions posed, while 47% opposed the measure and 48% supported it.

Putin, 67, who has dominated the Russian political landscape as president or prime minister for two decades, maintains a high approval rating, although his trust rating has been sliding and hit a six-year low in February.

The Moscow-based Levada Centre said 30% were categorically against the reform, with 17% inclined to oppose it, compared with 23% staunchly in favor and 25% inclined to support it.

The proposed change, part of a package of reforms that has already been approved by parliament and Russia’s Constitutional Court, would reset Putin’s presidential term tally to zero, allowing him to serve two more back-to-back six year terms.

Billboards urging Russians to take part in the nationwide vote have already gone up in many Russian towns and cities, but the nationwide vote scheduled for April 22 has been postponed because of the coronavirus crisis and no new date has been set.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; editing by Alexander Smith