Russia’s presidential poll begins

March 2nd, 2008 - 11:37 am ICT by admin  

Kamchatsky (Russia), March 2 (Xinhua) Russia’s far eastern region of Kamchatka kicked off Sunday the presidential election in which four candidates are vying to replace Vladimir Putin, who is barred constitutionally to stand for a third consecutive term. The candidates running for the highest post of the country are: First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, nominated by the ruling United Russia party, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, the leader of the Democratic Party.

Though having been hit by a strong cyclone and snow in recent days, all of the 203 polling stations in Kamchatka opened at 8 a.m. local time (2000 GMT) as scheduled.

The other parts of the Russian territory still have to wait for several hours to vote.

The polling stations will close at 8 p.m. local time.

Oliga Alexandra, a 52-year-old woman, was the first to cast her ballot at the No 64 polling station located at a natatorium of the city.

“I hope the new president will bring new reforms to our country and make our life better,” Oliga said.

Snowfall has temporarily stopped in this city but strong wind continued. The ground was covered by snow but has been removed from the main streets.

An electoral official said Saturday that they would “mobilise all forces to have the roads to polling stations cleared Sunday”.

Promising candidates have to win more than 50 percent vote to get the highest post of the nation. Otherwise, a run-off will be held between the top two candidates.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) said there are around 108.94 million eligible voters who will go to 96,301 polling stations scattered around the vast country Sunday, among which, 364 polling stations are opened in 142 countries for Russian citizens aboard.

In some remote areas voting started about two weeks before the election date.

Since Russia spans into 11 time zones, the people in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave located between Poland and Lithuania will be the last on the Russian territory to stop casting their ballots at 1800 GMT Sunday.

Though there is no minimum threshold for voter turnout in the election, the CEC predicted a high voter turnout, which will surpass 68.5 percent.

Over 200 observers from international organisations, including the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, will monitor the vote.

However, Europe’s main election watchdog, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, decided to boycott the election because of the Moscow-imposed restrictions.

The CEC will publish preliminary results at 10 a.m. Monday (0700 GMT), and the final results will be announced Friday.

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