No room for “idiocy” in voting – election chief

(RIA Novosti / STF)
The Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) will prevent voter fraud during the December 4 election to the lower house, the State Duma, the body’s chair Vladimir Churov has promised.

“We will not be trying to avoid [fraud], but we will avoid it, as usual,” the head of the Russian election watchdog assured journalists at a media conference on Thursday.

According to Churov, “it is idiocy” to believe that the vote count is more important than the vote itself. “I do not accept such things,” he added, as cited by RIA Novosti.

The official pointed out that Russian ballots are almost impossible to falsify, and that ballot security in the country is one of the highest in Europe.

Citing polls, the CEC chairman said that voter turnout is expected to be higher than during the last Duma elections in 2007. Voter interest is likely to be stirred up by intense political showdowns and competition between candidates vying for seats in the parliament.

Over 300 polling stations will be opened in 142 countries for about two million Russian citizens currently living abroad. The issue of the organization of voting for Russians residing in Georgia is yet to be settled though.

Around 6,000 Russian passport holders are in the former Soviet republic and the CEC is “obliged to organize voting for them”. However, following the August 2008 war in the Caucasus, diplomatic ties between Moscow and Tbilisi were cut.

Vladimir Churov said that the CEC will discuss the situation with the Russian Foreign Ministry, but there will only be complete clarity on the matter closer to Election Day.

All in all, about 97,000 local election commissions will be working throughout Russia. Up to half a million monitors from the countries various political parties, as well as international observers, will be making sure that the election is free and fair.

Churov pointed out that “for the first time ever,” Russia had sent letters to international organizations asking them to come up with suggestions regarding the number of their monitors and the regions they would like to send their missions to.

The letters were addressed to the CIS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Arab League and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Yet another novelty is that the organizations were invited to visit the all-Russian federal training vote, which will be held from August 15 to August 30. However, the head of the CEC emphasized earlier that at the election rehearsal, the delegations will be guests rather than observers. However, they will receive the status of monitors later, when the election campaign is officially launched.

“Unfortunately, not all democratic states provide an opportunity to monitor the election campaign process. The Russian Federation does provide it,” Churov emphasized.