Poll call: Deciding a new Duma

Today is a big day for voting in the world’s biggest country, with people deciding on a fresh board of lawmakers for the lower house of the Russian parliament.

­Leaving behind months of heated debates and politicking, it is now up to the people to have their say. The turnout is expected to be high despite the winter conditions.

The voting started at 8 am local time in each of Russia’s nine time zones and will end at 8 pm.

In some of the Far East regions the polls have already been closed and votes are already being counted.

The man heading the election list of the ruling party United Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev, the Party’s head PM Vladimir Putin and their major rival, the leader of the Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov, have all cast their votes.

All of the 3,374 voting station in Moscow, most of them based in schools, have been operating without major incidents.

People are also able to cast their votes at railway stations, airports and hospitals.

Polling stations are also working in Russia’s embassies and consulates in most of the countries worldwide so Russian being abroad, no matter whether in Thailand or Argentina, can use their right to cast a vote.

In Russia itself helicopters and snow mobiles are used to get to the most distant settlements not regularly connected to the mainland.

The international observers so far have noted no objections to the voting system. In turn Russian NGOs have reported some minor violations.

“We’ve been receiving some reports of small violations,” shared Georgy Fyodorov of Civil Watch NGO for Election Rights. “For example a TV crew was not let into a polling station in Moscow. There has also been information about a hacker attack on websites of an oppositional radio station.”

The main intrigue rests in the ruling United Russia Party and whether or not it will retain its overwhelming support among the population, as its rivals pledge to offer up tough competition.

The Russian Election Committee has announced that to ease concerns about the transparency of the elections, nearly 500,000 observers from competing parties and around 700 international observers will be monitoring the voting process to prevent violations.

Voters are also given access to special phone hotlines and a Twitter account to report any discrepancies they come across.

According to the Election Commission, voters from northern regions of Russia’s Far East are voting more actively than in the parliamentary elections of 2007. The commission also says that “the elections are taking place in a quiet atmosphere.”

The 2011 elections are going to be savvier in comparison with the previous ones as the system of electronic ballot is being introduced gradually throughout the country. Thousands have already cast their votes using electronic devices.

All the latest developments of the elections could be followed on RT Live election updates.

Special hashtags (#violations, #elections), which are used to isolate topics, have been introduced by activists on Twitter that anyone can use to share their thoughts about the election process in Russia or to report violations of the electoral law.