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109 million Russians eligible to vote

©

Latest update : 2008-03-02

Russians vote on Sunday in a presidential election seen by critics as rigged to hand almost certain victory to Vladimir Putin's favoured candidate, Dmitry Medvedev. (Report: J.Jackson)

Over 100 million Russians vote this Sunday to elect the new president of Russia.  In this country which spans eleven time zones and has a land mass two and a half times that of the US, the electoral process is a lengthy one.

In Kamchatka and Chukotka, in the far east of Russia, polling stations opened on Saturday at 9pm GMT+1. The final voting will take place in Kaliningrad, in the west, where polls close Sunday at 7pm GMT+1

The results of the initial exit polls will be made known as soon as the final ballot box is closed.  The preliminary overall results will be announced on Monday at 8am GMT+1.

Election without suspense

The election will hardly be surprising. Dmitry Medvedev, age 42, deputy prime minister and hand-picked candidate of existing president Vladimir Putin, is expected to take 60-80% of the vote.

Gauthier Rybinski, France 24’s political analyst, observes, “The only real suspense has to do with the participation rate. I think there will be a relatively high turnout since Russians take their right to vote seriously. They haven’t exercised that right in a long time.  Previously, when the communists were in power, voting was mandatory.  Today, the choice of candidates is not open but voting has symbolic value, even if everyone knows what the outcome will be.”

Romain Goguelin, Moscow correspondent for FRANCE 24, gives this analysis: “Putin is trying to convince the Russians to vote. It’s not an easy task because this election doesn’t excite the Russians. If Medvedev is elected but with a meagre turnout, his legitimacy will be weakened, and the Kremlin doesn’t want that.”

No debate

Opposition leaders are calling for a boycott.  One of them is Sergei Korzun, journalist and founder of radio station ‘Echoes from Moscow.’ It was one of the few media outlets to criticize the Kremlin. In a debate on FRANCE 24, he remarked, “In my circle, we vacillate between not voting at all and hiding the ballot boxes.  We’re not keen on having people make decisions for us.”

The campaign had no room for a debate between the candidates. Medvedev takes up a huge part of the media’s attention.  The three other candidates vying for the office are: Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, nationalist Liberal Democrat Vladimir Zhirinovsky and pro-European Andrei Bogdanov.

The official results will be publicised March 7.

Date created : 2008-03-02

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