MOSCOW, September 17. /TASS/. The voting in the elections to the State Duma (lower house) will kick off in the majority of Russian regions on Friday. The polling stations opened in the Kamchatka Region and the Chukotka Autonomous Region at 08:00 a.m. (23:00 Moscow Time on Thursday).
The lower house of parliament is elected for five years under a mixed election system: half of the State Duma members (225) will be elected on party tickets and another half in 225 single-mandate constituencies.
Russia’s Central Election Commission Head Ella Pamfilova said more than 4,400 election campaigns of various level are scheduled for the Single Voting Day in all 85 Russian regions, and over 31,000 mandates will be up for grabs.
Besides the elections to the State Duma, 46 Russian regions will hold regional elections. The polling stations across the entire country will start working at 08:00 a.m. local time on September 17 and will close at 08:00 p.m. on September 19. The voting process in Russia will officially end at 09:00 p.m. Moscow Time when the ballot stations will close in Kaliningrad.
According to the Russian elections chief, as many as 96,000 polling stations will be opened. Russian citizens staying abroad will be able to cast their vote in the State Duma elections in 144 countries, where 348 ballot stations will be working. Another seven polling stations are in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Some 880,000 people will be engaged in the work of district, territorial and regional election commissions.
Election importance and competition
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier delivered a video address, urging people to cast their ballots in the State Duma election. The leader said that he hopes Russians will demonstrate a responsible, balanced and patriotic civil position and counts on their intention "to elect [State Duma] members who will work for the benefit and in the name of their beloved motherland, in the interests of people and each citizen of Russia."
Putin is certain that Russians "want responsible, active and reputable people who are capable of keeping their words, fulfilling mandates and promises and delivering on hopes and trusts of citizens of Russia to enter parliament."
The current election campaign, as Pamfilova noted, is characterized by fierce competition at all levels. Overall, 23 parties have fielded almost 74,000 candidates for various seats and offices. At the same time, 14 parties have registered candidates for the State Duma elections, with 5,832 candidates trying to gain seats in the lower house of parliament, including ten self-nominated candidates.
According to the Russian election chief, "living parties" registered their candidates "who did not hibernate between elections and grew political muscles to adapt to working in an environment of a more complicated legislation."
Elections and pandemic
The CEC took serious measures to protect voting stations from the sanitary viewpoint, which are similar to those adopted for the Russia-wide constitutional amendment vote and the 2020 Single Voting Day. In particular, polling stations are disinfected, temperature checks are performed at the entrances, personal protective equipment (PPE) is handed out to every voter and election commission member.
The commission approved two main ways to cast ballots in the elections throughout these three days - at voting stations and at home.
According to Pamfilova, the CEC took "unprecedented measures to ensure the secrecy of vote." In particular, a multi-layered protection system of filled-out ballots was introduced: on September 17 and 18 they will be placed in special safe packages which will stay sealed until September 19.
At least 413,000 Russian observers will be monitoring the elections this year. Moreover, around 250 international observers from 55 countries will be in Russia as well. Pamfilova pledged that the foreign representatives will enjoy as comfortable working conditions as possible, including opportunities to visit any region.
One of the features of the 2021 elections is the new approach to organizing video monitoring. The CEC chief noted that around 96% voting stations in all 85 regions of Russia will have cameras installed.
"The scale of using the video monitoring technology at the 8th State Duma elections is unprecedented both for Russia and the world," Pamfilova said.
The online voting is accessible to residents of seven Russian regions: Moscow, Sevastopol, the Kursk Region, the Murmansk Region, the Nizhny Novgorod Region, the Rostov Region and the Yaroslavl Region. According to the CEC, more than 2.6 million Russians will be able to cast their votes online.