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2 Dec, 2007 08:18

Siberian miners get early vote

In Russia's coal heartland, in Western Siberia's Kemerovo region, 130 polling stations opened two hours earlier than scheduled, to allow miners to cast their ballots before their shifts.

Most voters voice local concerns.

“My entire family came to vote. We think it's crucial, because we choose our future both for ourselves and for our children. If we don't come, who will?” one of the voters said.

“It's crucial retired people get higher pensions and free medical aid. Also, miners and factory workers should have higher salaries as their job is difficult and dangerous,” another local added.

“It is a hard period that we are going through. But the coal mining industry is on the rise. The mines are getting united, and generally there's more stability in the country,” a miner said.

This is an election, but not as we know them. After people cast their vote they have the chance to buy food at discount prices from local shopkeepers. A local folk band provides entertainment and tickets are offered to local cultural and sporting events.

What started off as a Soviet practice designed to ensure the maximum turnout, has been retained since the fall of the USSR.