Race for the presidency: Russia hits the polls

Russians are going to the polls to choose their next president. Given its expansive territory, polling stations in some Russian regions have opened just recently, while in the most easterly areas the voting process is already well underway.

­The 2012 election has been called the most transparent – and the most expensive – in Russia’s history, with its main feature being the installation of nearly 200,000 web cameras at polling stations across the country. The number of observers has also hit a record, reaching nearly a million. The measures follow opposition allegations that the December parliamentary vote, which handed a majority of seats to the ruling United Russia party, was rigged.

This time, anyone can log on to a website showing a live broadcast of Russians casting their ballots. RT’s viewers can watch it here.No serious violations have been reported so far, with only some minor problems reported, including difficulties installing a webcam in Blagoveshchensk, the capital of the Amur Region; and an Internet connection too weak to support online broadcasting at some stations in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) and the Amur Region. So far, observers have reported order at the ballots.

Russia’s Far East started voting at midnight Moscow time, with the Chukotka, Buryatia and Magadan regions joining next, followed by cities in Siberian. The polls opened in the Urals at 6 am Moscow time, with Moscow and central Russia starting the voting process two hours later.

Russia’s western Kaliningrad region was the last to open its polls at 9 am Moscow time. Now the whole of Russia is involved in the voting process, with over 108 million voters having the opportunity to cast their ballots. The total number of Russian voters, including those abroad, is close to 110 million.
(RIA Novosti / Dmitry Astakhov)
(RIA Novosti / Dmitry Astakhov)

Nearly 70 per cent of the Chukotka Autonomous Region’s registered voters cast their ballots in the first seven hours after polls opened, according to the regional electoral commission. Voter turnout has topped  67 per cent in the region.The weakest voter turnout was in the region’s capital, Anadyr, where about 59 per cent of registered voters came to the polls. A 100 per cent turnout was recorded in the village of Krasnovo.

The Khabarovsk Region’s local electoral commission reports that over 44 per cent of the region’s voters have cast their ballots so far.

By 12 noon Moscow time, voter turnout across Russia had topped 15 per cent. As of 10 am, about 4 per cent of voters had cast their ballots in the Russian capital. According to the head of the Moscow city election commission, Valentin Gorbunov, from 15 to 30 observers are currently working at every polling station in the capital. About 3 per cent voted in Russia’s second city, St Petersburg, by 10 am on Sunday, slightly less than the figure recorded at the same stage of the 2008 presidential poll.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has cast his ballot in Moscow. Earlier in the day, presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov voted at a polling station in a small town in Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk Region. Another candidate, Lib Dem leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, also cast his ballot in the Russian capital. The head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, voted at his Moscow residence.

Russian citizens are also casting their ballots abroad, with New Zealand, Australia and Japan the first to open polls.

This is Russia’s sixth presidential election, and the first in which the country is selecting a president for a six-year term. Before a recent amendment to the Constitution Russia’s head of state served a four-year term, and was permitted to serve no more than two terms in a row.

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