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MOSCOW, November 27 (Itar-Tass) —— The parliamentary election campaign in Russia is in the homestretch – next Sunday, on December 4, Russians will elect a new State Duma, or lower parliament house. The State Duma of the previous, fifth, convocation has already finished its work. The week ahead of the vote will see a tough competition between parties vying for seats in the new Duma.
The parliamentary campaign was officially kicked off on August 30, after the presidential decree appointing the voting date was published. These elections, like the previous ones, will be held under the proportional election system, or by party lists. For the first time in Russia’s recent history, all the seven political parties registered by the Ministry of Justice are taking part in the campaign. All the seven have managed to win registration for parliamentary elections, including the three parties, which had no seats in the State Duma of the fifth convocation. These three parties managed to collect 150,000 signatures to be registered. So, slightly more than 3,000 registered candidates will compete for 450 Duma seats.
Although the term of a next Duma has been extended to five years, an average of seven candidates are vying for one Duma seat, or almost by half less than at the previous elections. Experts say that notwithstanding this fact the completion is not less tough, which is reflected in media canvassing. According to analysts, canvassing methods used in this campaign are rather tough, if not brutal. Thus, some TV companies demanded that parties’ campaign masterminds employed some censorship to their TV reels. Moreover, they appealed for clarification to the Central Election Commission, and the latter referred two reels of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and the Just Russia party to police for an expert opinion of their compliance to law.
The ruling United Russia party, which has not been taking part in televised debates for years, has finally released a number reels featuring the president and the prime minister. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) found itself in a focus of a scandal over the use of photos of legendary arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov. The Central Election Commission received to contradictory documents about the latter’s consent to take part in the CPRF’s campaigning. Unlike the previous Duma campaign, the parties are making a more extensive use of the Internet for their campaigning purposes. One positive thing about the current campaign is that such methods as graffiti are no longer used.
It is expected that the coming week will be rich in events. A number of parties have already announced their intention to stage mass rallies on the last day of campaigning, December 2. At midnight on December 3, the so-called day of silence, when any canvassing or campaigning is banned, begins. From November 29, it will be prohibited to announce the results of all kinds of opinion polls or election forecasts. On the same day, the Central Elections Commission will hold a videconference with all other election commissions. Taking part in the videcopnference there will be officials from the Russian president’s administration, the Russian government, Prosecutor General’s Office, federal and regional authorities.
In the mean time, early voting in remote and hard-to-reach areas in 34 Russian constituent regions started already on November 18. More than 150,000 voters, or about one percent of the overall number of eligible voters, may take part in it.
International observers, who have short-term accreditation, will start their activity from December 1.
Along with elections to the national parliament’s lower house, local legislatures will be elected in 27 Russia regions on the same day. In all, according to the Central Election Commission, about 2,800 elections of various levels, and 103 local referendums will be held in Russia’s 77 constituent regions on December 4. About 45,000 candidates have been registered for all these elections across Russia, the chairman of the Central Election Commission, Vladimir Churov, said.
With the parliamentary election campaign in full swing, the presidential campaign has been kicked off in the country since November 25. Party candidate nomination will start on Sunday, when the ruling United Russia party holds a congress. It is expected that the congress will nominate United Russia leader Vladimir Putin, the current Russian prime minister, as candidate for presidency. Three other parliamentary parties have also announced the dates of their congresses – already after the Duma elections.
This is the last time when the two campaigns, parliamentary and presidential, overlap. Now that the lower house term has been expanded to five years, and the presidential term – to six years, these campaigns will not coincide again.