President Vladimir Putin went on national television Thursday to urge Russians
to use their votes Sunday -- in a clear attempt to increase the turnout
of an election he is expected to win easily.
Igor Tabakov /
calling for a boycott of the election on Pushkin Square. The posters
read, "Protect Freedom," and, "No to Arbitrariness."
The Kremlin has been reportedly concerned about a low turnout, which
could embarrass Putin and weaken his mandate.
In a two-minute address broadcast on Channel One and Rossia television
channels, Putin told Russians that their voices would determine the vote
and dismissed accusations from challengers that election results could
"There are no middlemen between the voters and the candidates for
the post of the head of state," said a stern-looking Putin. "Under
the Russian Constitution, Russian citizens directly, i.e. personally,
choose the deputies, the head of their cities and villages, the governors
and -- on March 14 -- the president of their country."
Putin called the elections "one of the main achievements of democracy,"
and told voters that only their support "can make the future president
of Russia feel confident."
Meanwhile, one of Putin's five challengers, left-leaning nationalist
Sergei Glazyev, published an open letter to Putin in Novaya Gazeta on
Thursday, saying local officials are under pressure to ensure a high turnout
and falsify ballots in Putin's favor.
On Wednesday, Glazyev said some regional leaders had held meetings with
local elections officials to make sure that 70 percent to 75 percent of
all votes cast are for Putin.
Central Elections Commission chief Alexander Veshnyakov said Wednesday
that he expects turnout to be higher than the 56 percent recorded in December's
State Duma elections. Turnout must top 50 percent for the vote to be valid.
On Wednesday evening, a demonstration on Pushkin Square held under the
slogan, "The elections are cancelled," urged voters to boycott
"Putin has turned the elections into a farce," said Ilya Ponomaryov,
one of the organizers, from the Union of Communist Youth. "We want
to show that by casting our ballot on March 14 you are sentencing democracy
Protesters cast symbolic ballots into a box next to a table with black
bread and vodka -- brand name "Putinka" -- the traditional refreshments
at a Russian wake.
The protest, which was also organized by Young Yabloko, the youth movement
of the Union of Right Forces, and the National Bolshevik Party, was sanctioned
by the city's central district administration.
Muslims leaders have called on Muslims to vote Sunday.
Cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri would vote from the international space station
by proxy, Interfax reported.
the original at
Presidential elections 2004