Even before the campaign reaches its climax, voting has already begun in Russia’s parliamentary election. The vote takes place on December 4 but officials have been travelling to remote far eastern areas to collect votes and ensure everyone has their say.
Against the backdrop of an early winter chill in Moscow, debate is heating up about the conduct of the election. Polls say the United Russia party of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will easily retain its dominant position in the State Duma. That outcome is expected to be replicated in presidential elections in March after which Russia’s most powerful double act are likely to swap roles. Putin has said he will run for the presidency, although Medvedev’s position has yet to be confirmed.
But ahead of next month’s poll, the main opposition Communists are warning of foul play.
Party leader Gennady Zyughanov said: “This time we have prepared almost 500,000 monitors. We have signed contracts and agreements with all who are ready for dialogue and a fair election. And in December, we will hold protests everywhere with a single slogan: ‘Don’t let them steal our votes!’”
That is a view shared by some. One man in a Moscow street said: “They (authorities) have determined everything beforehand, even who will be premier and who will be president. How can these elections be fair?”
A Muscovite woman said: “I will vote for sure. I won’t vote for United Russia, I will chose some other party. But I think my vote will hardly change anything.”
International monitors said the last Duma election in 2007 was not rigged but that media coverage heavily favoured United Russia.