Rosenberg's Russia: On the election trail

 
BBC Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg

Russians go to the polls on 4 March to elect a president to replace Dmitry Medvedev. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely predicted to win the race, and with it a third term in office.

BBC Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg gives his perspective on Russia in the run-up to the vote.

THE LONG JOURNEY TO SEE RUSSIA'S FIRST ELECTION WEBCAM

Russia so often defies logic.

By express train, the 435-mile (700km) journey between Moscow and St Petersburg can take as little as three and a half hours.

webcam in Novgorod After vote rigging allegations, the government said webcams would be installed at polling stations

But travel by rail from Moscow to Veliky Novgorod (310 miles; 500km) and you need the patience of a fisherman on a frozen river.

Eight hours and 20 minutes after leaving the Russian capital, train 42 finally eased into Novgorod station.

After a quick wash and brush-up at the hotel, I headed to the nearest bus stop. Not to catch a bus - but to ask people for whom they planned to vote in the presidential election.

Valery works in the construction business which, he says, "is doing very badly now - work's hard to come by". But he's still going to vote for Vladimir Putin. "Putin's brought us stability!" he told me.

I told you Russia defies logic.

Most of the other people at the bus stop also told me they supported the prime minister. "Putin gets things done," Alisa said. "All the other candidates just talk but do nothing."

I pointed out that they can't do anything if they're not actually elected into office. But Alisa wasn't going to budge.

"In 1991 the shops here were empty," Alexander recalled. "Now we've got everything they have in the West. Russia's changing for the better and it's thanks to Putin."

Only the woman road sweeper shovelling the snow from the bus stop sounded a critical note. "People in Novgorod are finally waking up, just like they are in Moscow," Nadezhda said. "They want more freedom and more democracy."

It was democracy that brought me to Novgorod - or rather the Russian authorities' pledge to defend it. After the widespread allegations of vote rigging which marred December's parliamentary elections, Vladimir Putin promised that the presidential poll would be free and fair.

He came up with the expensive idea of installing webcams at polling stations to keep a video eye on the voting.

Steve Rosenberg sees how the webcam monitoring system will work

Novgorod's first election webcam was to be unveiled at the local youth centre, which will become a polling station on 4 March.

The hall there was packed with journalists, local officials and IT specialists, all waiting for a special guest from Moscow.

When the Russian communications minister finally arrived, an engineer climbed a ladder behind him and began pulling at cables and fixing a webcam onto the ceiling.

Around 200,000 of these webcams will be installed in all 95,000 polling stations across Russia. It is a mammoth task, estimated to be costing around $1bn (£640m; 770m euros).

On election day, the voting and the counts from every precinct will be streamed online.

Along with the other journalists there, I was awarded a special certificate, congratulating me on "Witnessing the Installation of the First Election Webcam in Russia".

But I still don't see how any of these webcams will prevent election fraud.

After all, in the parliamentary elections, there were many reports of official results being rewritten and numbers simply changed once the election protocols had left the polling stations, in order to boost the percentage of Mr Putin's party.

No webcams are going to see anything like that happening.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 15.

    #14 I totally agree with you. I'm British, but I really don't understand why the Wesr has to be so anti-East and follow America's approach to economic and foreign affairs - it's led us to economic disaster and being hated in the Middle East. It is pathetic to see some commentators here (eg #13) spouting decades-old Cold War propoganda/jokes while Britain is on the brink of imploding.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 14.

    To those people who insist on seeing east-west relations in terms of cold war-esque antagonism; countries like Russia and China are well past the stage of giving a monkey's what you think.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    There was a soviet era joke about how superior the Russian electoral process was over the western model, because they could announce the winner 12 hrs before the polls opened ... so as we already know the winner, why are we reporting on the campaign trail?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 12.

    #7.
    "To see the benefits of democracy one only has to compare the West to Russia in relation to the quality of healthcare, education, infrastructure and justice systems. It's a no-brainer".
    Really? I'd only agree with you about justice in Russia being poorer than in the UK. But I'm not talking as a Scotsman ;-)
    But isn't this thread about the quality of democracy in Russia rather than East v West?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 11.

    #5.
    1) I think that the Berlin wall came down in 1989 and Russia is trying to create Democracy?
    2) Many of the people who speak Russian ARE Latvian/Lithuanian/Estonian/Pole/Bulgarian or have gained citizenship in those countries after the dissolution of the USSR. Some of those citizens are still Russian but living in those countries post-1991.
    3) You did not mention if the passports are FAKE

 

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