23 January 2020
Source: Novaya gazeta
We, citizens of the Russian Federation, declare that today a constitutional coup is taking place in our country before our very eyes. We are convinced that the aim of this coup is to ensure that Vladimir Putin and his corrupt regime hold on to power during his lifetime.
To achieve this, a sting operation was devised to illegally re-write the Constitution. Putin announced on 15 January that this had already been agreed, thus deciding Russia’s fate in a matter of 17 minutes. The amendments were prepared in five days.
Many of us have serious criticisms of the existing Constitution. But we recognize that to change the text of the Basic Law for the sake of short-term political interests destroys the last institution which safeguards Russia from the complete usurpation of power. A stable, democratic, and developed state is constructed on the basis of a quite opposite principle: changes to its Constitution are made very rarely and with great caution, while the personnel composition of public authorities changes regularly.
Today has seen an assault on the basic principles on which the state is founded, on the constitutional rights of Russia’s citizens. And, although Chapters 1 and 2 of the Constitution, where these principles and rights are set out, have not been changed, the proposed amendments do not simply touch upon them, they contradict what is written in those Chapters.
The organizers of the coup have removed the priority of Russia’s international obligations, they have abolished the autonomy of local self-government, lessened the separation of powers, in the first place by shrinking the independence of the courts, and by enshrining unconstitutional practices of the authorities in the Basic Law. And they have also created a State Council, a new state administrative body not subject to oversight by society.
It is important to emphasize that serious contradictions, which will lead to legislative chaos and violation of the foundations of the state system, have been intentionally introduced into the text of the Constitution. Besides this, such an arbitrary amendment of the Basic Law in great haste deprives the constitution of its essential feature of stability, thereby removing obstacles to the making of further amendments for short-term political advantage.
We assert that in the guise of changes we are being presented with a constitutional coup. That is why the amendment of the Constitution is being done in such a hurry, with rhetorical and legal manipulation and without any real public discussion. Instead of a Constitutional Assembly we are being offered an imitation working group in which non-professionals participate; instead of a referendum, an illegitimate ‘nationwide vote.’ The fact that what is being proposed is a vote on a ‘package’ is witness to the fact that the organizers of the coup themselves recognize that not all the amendments they are proposing will be approved by the citizens.
People realize that the illegitimate changing of the Constitution is inevitable and will radically worsen not only life for society as a whole but for each of person, even those who are far from politics.
— real elections, and not a cosmetic reallocation of roles for the purpose of ensuring the lifelong rule of one person;
— to be able to influence the taking of government decisions, and not merely participation in ill-defined and non-transparent procedures;
— Unambiguous laws that apply to all, which defend human rights, and enable each to realize their potential, and not amendments which curtail these rights and opportunities;
This is why we, citizens of Russia, signing this manifesto, call upon all those who are not prepared to reconcile themselves to the usurpation of power by Vladimir Putin, to join with us in signing this statement and to take action in a large-scale public campaign.
We realise that the actual procedure for voting on the amendments to the Constitution is not transparent and is dishonest. But silence will be interpreted as consent. If such a vote is announced, we call upon all to participate and to say NO to the constitutional coup and the usurpation of power.
Russia needs real changes, and not the destruction of its statehood.
For a list of signatories to this manifesto, see here.
Translated by Mary McAuley and Simon Cosgrove