Election Day: Russians vote for new Duma

(RIA Novosti / Vitaly Belousov)
Russians have voted in parliamentary elections on December 4. Over 3,000 candidates from seven registered parties were battling for seats in the sixth State Duma, the lower house.

Following a month of heated campaigning, debates, mutual accusations and generous promises to voters, the D-Day for political forces is here. About 110 million eligible voters, including 108 million living inside the country, had ability to have their say as to which party they entrust the further development of Russia.

The ballot-casting began in each of the nine time zones at 8am local time and will last till 8pm on Sunday. For Russians who are currently abroad, 369 polling stations have been organized in over 140 countries.

According to Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC), about half a million observers from competing parties were monitoring the vote to make sure there are no violations by their rivals.

In addition, the election was watched by around 650 international observers from foreign countries and organizations, including PACE, the CIS, the OSCE Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Bureau and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The CEC earlier announced that over 5,000 polling stations have been equipped with automatic ballot-counting machines. In addition, about 5 per cent of citizens will be able to elect candidates using electronic voting devices. These innovations are aimed at making the election process more transparent.

For the first time in Russia’s modern history lawmakers were elected for a term of five rather than four years.

In order to secure proportional representation in the State Duma of the sixth convocation, a party should overcome a 7 per cent threshold. However, parties that gain 6 to 7 per cent of the nationwide vote will get two seats at the 450-seat parliament. One seat will be offered to a party that gets support of 5-6 per cent of voters.

Among the competitors are the four parties that were presented in the fifth Duma. Those include United Russia – with President Dmitry Medvedev in first place on its election list and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin its chairman – the Communist Party, Liberal Democrats and Fair Russia. The three other registered political forces – Democratic Party Yabloko, the Right Cause, and Patriots of Russia – are also determined to make it to the parliament.

Under the law, it is prohibited to publish exit poll results or any studies related to the election until 9pm Moscow time (17:00 GMT), when polling stations close in Russia’s westernmost region, Kaliningrad. Official results will start appearing later, as the vote count progresses.

The first plenary session of the new parliament may take place on December 21-23, head of the State Duma’s regulations committee Otari Arshba said earlier this week, reported Itar-Tass.

“If official results of the elections are announced before December 11, it is quite likely that an organizational meeting of the new parliamentarians will take place before December 23,” he said. The official added that MPs will have to elect Duma speaker and deputy speakers as well as head of committees.

Along with Duma elections, local legislatures in 27 Russian regions are also being elected on December 4. According to the CEC, about 2,800 elections of different levels, and 103 local referenda would be held on Sunday. About 45,000 candidates were registered for these polls across the country.