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    RUSSIANS TO ELECT THEIR PRESIDENT SUNDAY

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    MOSCOW, MARCH 13 (RIA Novosti) - The people of Russia are to elect their next president Sunday, March 14. 109 million Russian voters will be able to cast their ballots tomorrow.

    The first polling stations, i.e. those in the Kamchatka region, the Chukchee and Koryak autonomous areas (Russian Far East), will open already in the evening of March 13. Meanwhile polling stations in Russia's westernmost Kaliningrad region on the Baltic coast, will close at 9.00 p.m. Moscow time March 14. A total of 95,000 polling stations will be opened all over Russia tomorrow.

    The Russian electorate will be able to support six presidential candidates, i.e. Sergei Glazyev, Oleg Malyshkin, Sergei Mironov, Vladimir Putin, Irina Khakamada and Nikolai Kharitonov. It's also possible to vote against all candidates. Elections will be declared legitimate, if more than 50 percent of all voters cast their ballots. Any single contender must collect over 50 percent of all votes.

    Sociologists predict a much greater voter turnout than the one, which was registered during the December 7, 2003 State Duma elections. The Central Election Commission's Chairman Alexander Veshnyakov also agrees with them; in his opinion, some 60 percent of all voters will come to the polls. Veshnyakov is sure that most Russian citizens will exercise their constitutional right.

    Territorial and district election commissions will involve about one million people over the March 14-15 period. We must ensure a benevolent and festive atmosphere at the polls, regarding this as one of our top-priority tasks, Alexander Veshnyakov, Chairman of the Central Election Commission, noted.

    Several hundred thousand observers representing presidential candidates, as well as all the main political parties, will monitor the voting process. Moreover, about 1,000 international observers, including PACE (Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe), OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)) and CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) observers, will be watching the elections.

    All votes will be counted promptly and publicly, the organizers of presidential elections say. The Vybory (Elections) system's impressive potential will make it possible to sum up voting results at 90 percent of all Russian polling stations already by 5.00 p.m. Moscow time. The Central Election Commission promises to submit "final" preliminary voting results by 8.00 p.m. Moscow time.

    Electronic voting machines, i.e. automated data-processing systems, will be used for the first time during Russian presidential elections. 1,100 such voting machines will be installed at 650 polling stations in Moscow and St. Petersburg, thus making it possible to sum up election results 300 times more quickly than before.

    1.3 million people now staying outside of Russia will be able to vote at 353 polling stations in 140 countries of the world. Some Russian citizens (mostly those living in Moslem countries where the weekend starts on Friday) have already cast their ballots ahead of schedule.

    Mass-media people are extremely interested in the forthcoming Russian presidential elections. More than 1,300 journalists from 41 countries of the world are accredited at the Elections-2004 news center. 112 TV-and-radio companies, including 91 foreign companies, will be covering such elections.

    Meanwhile the election campaign, which lasted for 30 consecutive days, ground to a halt at 12.00 a.m. March 13 in line with the law. Consequently, voters will have some time to settle into shape, making well thought-out decisions all the same. Meanwhile the consequences of such decisions will determine this country's future for the next four years.

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