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Russia to cast ballots in presidential election on March 18

Electioneering in the mass media will consist of televised debates and election videos

MOSCOW, January 1. /TASS/. Russia will be holding its seventh presidential election in its modern history on March 18, 2018.

The presidential campaign officially kicked off on December 18, 2017.

Vladimir Putin submitted documents to the Central Election Commission for his nomination in the 2018 presidential election on December 27, 2017.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, became the first candidate to be registered as a presidential contender by the Central Election Commission (CEC) on December 29, 2017.

Other high-profile hopefuls include Grigory Yavlinsky, co-founder of the Yabloko Party, business ombudsman and head of the Party of Growth Boris Titov, TV host and journalist Ksenia Sobchak, who was nominated by the Civil Initiative party, and CEO of Lenin State Farm agricultural company Pavel Grudinin, nominated by the Communist Party of Russia. In addition, a number of other candidates have also submitted their nomination papers to the Central Election Commission.

According to the campaign schedule, candidates nominated by parties are obliged to provide documents required for nomination to the Central Election Commission before January 12, while independent candidates must do that before January 7.

The post of the Russian president, elected according to direct suffrage, was introduced based on the results of a referendum on March 17, 1991.

The position of president was established in Russia in 1991. Since then, presidential elections have been held six times: in 1991, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Any citizen not younger than 35 and who has been a permanent resident of Russia for at least 10 years, is eligible to hold the office of head of state.

Candidates can be nominated by political parties that enjoy the right to participate, the moment an election is called. The Ministry of Justice compiles the list and sends it to the CEC after the campaign has been announced. At present, there are 69 such parties.

Political parties have 25 days following the start of the campaign (January 16 is the deadline) to hold a congress and present all the required documents to the CEC. The congress of a political party approves of its presidential candidate. It can pick any of the party’s members or a non-affiliated one, but not a member of another political party. A Russian citizen can participate in the election as a self-nominee.

After the nomination and the opening of a special account in the savings bank, Sberbank, candidates are free to set off on their election campaign trails. They can organize rallies, meet with the electorate, display billboards and arrange for the distribution of leaflets, calendars and other handouts that cost no more than 100 rubles apiece. Samples of all election campaign ads are to be presented to the CEC.

A self-nominee is obliged to present no less than 300,000 signatures, with each region accounting for no more than 7,500 signatures of local residents. If a signup campaign is held among citizens, permanently residing outside Russia, the overall number of such signatures can be no greater than 7,500.

A political party (except for parties having factions in the State Duma) is obliged to collect no fewer than 100,000 signatures in support of its candidate, with each Russian region accounting for no more than 2,500 signatures, and a similar amount can be collected outside Russia.

The parliamentary parties are exempt from collecting signatures, so are political parties having factions in no less than one-third of regional legislatures. Right now, there are no such parties in Russia except for parliamentary ones.

Each voter can sign for each individual nominee only once. No less than 20% of the signatures required for registration are subject to subsequent verification.

It is noteworthy that a candidate is allowed to have property outside Russia, but by the time the application for registration is submitted, all bank accounts must be closed, and cash and valuables must be withdrawn from foreign banks. The use of foreign financial instruments is prohibited.

The deadline for submitting registration documents and signatures is 18:00 Moscow time on January 31, 2018. The CEC is obliged to either register a candidate or present a well-founded refusal within ten days.

In early February, the ballot paper will be finalized. All registered candidates will appear on it in alphabetical order.

That done, the election campaign proper - electioneering in the mass media - will get underway. Under Russian legislation, electioneering in the media begins 28 days before Election Day and ends one day prior to the election. Saturday is a day of silence. Any campaigning on the eve of the election is prohibited.

Free air time will be granted to the registered candidates on Russia’s national and regional state-run television broadcasters on weekdays starting from 00:00 on February 17, 2018 local time until 00:00 on March 17, 2018.

Electioneering in the mass media will consist of televised debates and election videos.

For nationwide TV debates on federal channels, candidates are expected to participate in person, but there are exceptions. If a candidate is unable to take part in a debate for objective reasons (sickness or performance of office duties), delegating a proxy is a possibility.

Candidates having municipal or civil service jobs are obliged to go on vacation until the end of the campaign.President Vladimir Putin is not obliged to go on vacation, because he holds a high-ranking state post.

Regarding absentee and early balloting, 20 days ahead of the election early voting will be arranged for personnel working at stations in the Arctic and the Antarctic. This schedule will also be in effect for ship crews, who on Election Day will be on the high seas, and those that reside in hard-to access and remote areas. For citizens overseas, they will be eligible 15 days before the election to cast ballots at polling stations outside Russia. The CEC says there will be 218 such polling stations.

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, a total of 96,000 polling stations will begin to open across the nation at 08:00 local time. The voting will last until 20:00 local time.

After the voting ends, the district election commissions will open the ballot boxes with the observers watching the process and count the votes. The returns will then be written down in the district commissions’ statements of votes (SOV). The 2018 election will see the introduction of a new QR-code technology. Each SOV will bear a unique QR-code to be identified by a special scanner. This will help avoid mistakes in feeding data into the national automated vote-counting system GAS Vybory.

The chief of each district election commission will take the SOV to the regional election commission, where the data will be uploaded into the GAS Vybory vote-counting system.

The Central Election Commission shall approve of the election returns within 10 days.

In order to clinch a victory in the first round, a candidate has to receive more than half of the votes who turned out. Should none of the candidates collect enough votes, a runoff election would be called within three weeks’ time for the frontrunner and the runner-up. A simple majority will determine the winner in that case.