Countdown to election: will the vote be transparent?

It's the final countdown of campaigning in Russia for Sunday's Parliamentary election. On Saturday, an ‘electioneering silence’ will be observed with no more canvassing allowed ahead of the ballot. Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin calls on Russians to turn out a

Political parties are fighting for the last votes, political analysts are betting on the outcome, PR agencies are evaluating the campaign.

The biggest development of the election was the President himself. The statement, in which he agreed to head the electoral list, came as a surprise, also for the United Russia, and skyrocketed their ratings.

Public relations consultant Aleksey Sytnikov says 90 per cent of the United Russia party supporters stand by the party’s side because it is backed by the President. Putin himself says this decision will help to make sure that Russia maintains the same course.

“If somebody expected that as a result of those elections Russian stability would be undermined it was a mistake. After the turbulent 1990s stability is really important,” political analyst from the Moscow-based Institute for World Economy and International Relations, Aleksandr Pikayev, says.

The move, however, has its drawbacks.

“The United Russia party, which was dominant before in a political landscape, is like Everest among pigmies. This potentially might have some challenges for Russia's democratic development,” Aleksandr Pikayev believes.

Nobody is guessing now about who will get the majority of votes. “The Main intrigue now is how many parties will enter Duma,” Aleksandr Pikayev notes.

Russia's opposition parties are also making their final moves, and anchor their hopes on the international observers.

“International observers are looking at the elections in Russia from the other side.  We believe they are impartial and their opinion would be important to understand the results of the vote,” said Ivan Bolshakov from the Yabloko party.

Meanwhile, the OSCE Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Bureau cancelled their trip, saying the Russian side failed to issue visas in time. Russia disagrees and says it did everything in strict accordance with its obligations.

However, around 400 others accepted their invitations, and members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly are among them. A body’s representative notes ‘the preparations are going in a good way’. Though PACE’s concerns are, as in many countries, about the majority and opposition.

Meantime, the Central Elections Committee has been actively campaigning for a record turnout. 700,000 absentee ballots were given out. Polling stations have been installed in airports and train stations.