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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Russia Goes to the Polls

Mr Putin -Not to be Messed With 
Today the worlds largest nation elects its President. The hot favourite is the omnipresident Vladmir Putin who polls suggest is likely to romphome with over 65% in a 5 man race. The country is spread across 11 time zones and there are 110 million people eligible to vote. Mr Putin had been President from 2000-2008 however, constitutional rules meant he could not run for three consecutive terms.

In previous years Russian elections have been dogged by claims of corruption and it appears this year shall be no exception. By midday in Moscow there had already been 1,000 independent claims of corruption, including such claims as bussing groups of supporters to different polling stations so that they may vote a number of times.

If these violations are proven to be true it may spell a return to massive protests seen in December whereby a tens of thousands of people in Russia's major cities turned out against the alleged corruption in the parliamentary elections held last year. Putin seemed to dismiss the protesters as urban elites influenced by the West and out to undermine Russia. He did however, decide to install web-cams in each of Russia's 90,000 polling stations in order to more closely monitor what was happening there in. The opposition have argued this is  unlikely to effect real change as they cannot capture everything, particularly during counting.

The young urbanites of Moscow have been increasingly vocal in recent times but they are poorly represented in Russia's political landscape with no explicitly liberal candidate standing in the Presidential race. Many are expected to vote for the independent candidate Mr Mikhail Prokhorova Russia's third wealthiest citizen and owner of NBA team the New Jersey Jets. His popularity stands in single digits according to the polls. Putin's nearest challenger the Communist Party's Gennady Zyuganov is running for a fourth time but his popularity has been polled at just 15%

Despite Putin's expected triumph it seems as those he has not emerged unscathed from the protests with some political analysts in Russia believing he is unlikely to last the full term as President without a major threat to his power. Whether he chooses a peaceful solution or otherwise remains to be seen.

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