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Russians Head for Polls to Elect New President
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 441 days ago | Sunday, 4th March , 2012 , 00:35 [am] | International
|.|| Russians began voting on Sunday to elect a president for the fifth time in the nationâ€™s post-Soviet history, the first in which the president will serve a six-year term, and not four years as previously.
Five candidates – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, nationalist Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky, A Just Russia Party
Russians began voting on Sunday to elect a president for the fifth time in the nationâ€™s post-Soviet history, the first in which the president will serve a six-year term, and not four years as previously.
Five candidates – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, nationalist Liberal Democratic Party head Vladimir Zhirinovsky, A Just Russia Party leader Sergei Mironov and the only independent, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov – vie for the Russian presidency in the March 4 vote.
Putin, who was Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008 and has been prime minister since then, has led the race but may be forced into a second round if he gets less than 50 percent of the vote in the first.
The winner in the first round will be inaugurated as president in early May and President Dmitry Medvedev, a junior member of the ruling tandem with Putin, will step down.
Voting in the Kamchatka and Magadan regions started at midnight Saturday/Sunday Moscow time (20:00 GMT Saturday). Polling places have so far opened in the Amur, Sakhalin, Magadan and Kamchatka regions, the Chukotka and Jewish autonomous areas, the Khabarovsk and Primorye Territories and the Republic of Yakutia.
The voting will end after residents of Russiaâ€™s westernmost Kaliningrad exclave vote at 9:00 p.m. Moscow time (5:00 p.m. GMT) on Sunday.
Results of the exit polls will be announced after voting is finished, and the first preliminary official results are expected to be made public by midnight Sunday/Monday (20:00 GMT Sunday) or in the early hours on Monday.
Webcasts and Video Wall
The system of webcasts from polling stations during Sundayâ€™s presidential elections in Russia was launched successfully on Sunday, the Communications Ministry reported.
â€œThe systemâ€™s launch took place in a normal mode. There were no failures,â€ the ministry said.
On an order from Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, web cameras have been installed at 91,000 of Russia’s 96,000 polling stations in order to guarantee transparency for the vote.
The webcam installation campaign followed claims by critics that the December 4 parliamentary elections in Russia were marred by vote rigging. The authorities admitted that minor violations occurred but said they did not affect the result.
First webcasts from polling places in Russiaâ€™s Far East started at midnight Saturday/Sunday Moscow time (20:00 GMT Saturday), just when elections started there. They are available to users of the  webvybory2012.ru website.
Nearly 6,000 polling stations will be fitted with new automatic ballot-counting equipment. There will also be 1,000 electronic voting devices that do not require a paper ballot sheet.
A video wall showing webcasts from polling places across Russia was launched in the Central Election Commission (CEC) on Sunday.
The ceremony was attended by Communications Minister Igor Shchyogolev and CEC head Vladimir Churov, as well as two foreign observers, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.
â€œFor the first time in history we see in real time mode that the vote in the Chukotka Autonomous Area [in the Far East] started. For the first time in history we can see everything at all polling stations,â€ Churov said. â€œThis is fantastic even to me.â€
Shchyogolev said video surveillance is conducted at 91,000 polling places across Russia, â€œ80,000 in real time mode, and 11,000 in the recording mode.â€
Over 1,000,000 users wishing to monitor the vote online on Sunday have been registered, he also said, adding that all polling stations are covered by observers.
The electronic register of the Central Election Commission contains 110 million voters, of whom 1,813,000 are registered with consulates abroad. The Commission recorded a 69.7 percent turnout in the 2008 presidential poll.
The Russian Constitution sets the voting age at 18.
Some of the electoral preparations abroad have aroused concern in the host nations. For example, the Moldovan authorities have protested the setting up of polling stations for Russian presidential elections in Moldovaâ€™s breakaway Transdnestr region.
A total of 24 polling stations will be open on Sunday, Russian presidential election day, in the unrecognized Transdnestr republic.
Russian cosmonauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) will vote via a dedicated communication channel linking the ISS with Mission Control.
Almost 700 international observers have arrived in Russia to monitor the March 4 presidential elections, including from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States Councilâ€™s International Assembly, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
According to CEC head Vladimir Churov, international observers have the right to be present at election commissions of all levels, including precinct commissions, on polling day, on the days of early elections, at the count and at recounts. They can watch everything that happens at the polling stations.
An unprecedented number of Russian observers – no less than 176,000 – will also be present, including those from the parties backing each of the candidates, and the sole independent, Prokhorov.
Over 380,000 police officers, about 30,000 voluntary police helpers and some 31,000 private guards will ensure order in Russia on Sunday, when the country elects its new president, the Interior Ministry reported.
A total of 36,500 police officers will be on duty in Moscow, and over 6,000 officers will arrive from other regions to assist their colleagues in the Russian capital as rallies are expected to be held in the city following the elections.rian, Voice of a Nation