In Putin’s Russia, the parade comes before the election. Photo: Sergey Pyatakov/Host Photo Agency via Getty

Russians began voting Thursday on the most significant package of constitutional changes since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Why it matters: The most significant of all is the clearing of President Vladimir Putin's term limits to allow him to remain in power until 2036.

Setting the scene: The referendum was postponed from April due to the pandemic and comes on the heels of a massive military parade to mark the anniversary of victory in World War II.

  • Voting will be spread over a week and include precautions to limit the spread of the virus.
  • The proposal would also enshrine social conservatism — "faith in god," opposition to gay marriage — into the constitution.
  • It would also give parliament new powers, including to appoint the prime minister, "while giving the president a greater say over the work of courts and prosecutors," per the WSJ.

Where things stand: Putin has been criticized for his hands-off approach to coronavirus, but his proposal is nonetheless expected to pass.

  • A recent Levada Center poll shows 44% in favor and 32% opposed — but 55% of those certain to turn out plan to vote in favor.
  • Opposition leaders including Alexei Navalny are calling for a boycott. The Kremlin is offering incentives to boost turnout.

What to watch: The Levada Center's tracking poll puts Putin's approval rating at 59%, his lowest mark since Sep. 1999, 3 months before he became president.

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