Russians vote in parliamentary election

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Voters across Russia are choosing a new parliament in an election nearly certain to be won by President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

Polls opened in Moscow and other western cities Sunday, hours after voting began in frigid weather in Russia's far east.

More than 100 million people are eligible to vote for legislators in the 450-seat State Duma — the lower house of parliament.

The vote ends Sunday evening at 18:00 UTC, when polls close in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, the farthest west of Russia's 11 time zones.

Mr. Putin cast his own vote in Moscow Sunday, then encouraged voters to choose candidates they can trust.

After opposition leader Garry Kasparov cast his vote, he accused the ruling party of, in his words, "not just rigging the vote, but raping the whole electoral system."

The former chess champion was freed Thursday after completing a five-day jail sentence imposed on him and others who took part in an anti-Putin demonstration in Moscow.

In an interview broadcast on German radio Sunday, Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the elections, noting the limited number of international observers.

A Russian state-run news agency, Interfax, quotes the elections commission chairman saying 299 foreign observers have been accredited so far, and the number will increase during the day.

Opposition leaders accuse the Kremlin of stifling debate during the campaign leading up to the elections through pressure tactics and media controls.

The constitution prohibits Mr. Putin from running for a third consecutive term as president in March. His name is at the head of United Russia's candidate list, indicating he might become prime minister in the next government, retaining much of his power.

This article is based on Big Win Expected for Putin as Russians Vote in Parliamentary Election by VOA News which has a copyright policy compatible with our CC-BY 2.5. Specifically "Copyright status of work by the U.S. government"