Russian President Vladimir Putin watches a Victory Day military parade on Red Square, marking the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II, on June 24 in Moscow. | Ramil Sitdikov/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images

The Russian leader got his popular mandate, but he might not be as powerful as a referendum makes him sound.

Russian President Vladimir Putin just got what he’s wanted from a recent vote: the veneer of a popular mandate on a plan that allows him to stay in power far beyond his current term limit — and could essentially make him president for life.

On July 1, Russia tallied the results of a week-long national vote on a slew of constitutional reforms, including a constitutional amendment that allows Putin to nix term limits and remain president until 2036. Such an outcome was expected, and largely predetermined, given Russia’s long track record of…

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