Give Prime Minister Vladimir Putin credit for keeping his word regarding the installation of web cam monitors at polling stations in time for Russia’s March 4 presidential elections. Many “naysayers” swore that his pledge was just another empty promise. Well, the web cams are being installed across Russia at a cost of billions of rubles.
Mr. Putin had made the promise of web cameras during his over 4 hour long broadcast forum to the nation in mid-December.
Today Minister of Communications and Press Igor Shchegolyov gave a press tour of the new technology in the city of Veliky Novgorod. With cameras rolling as the new technology was demonstrated, Shchegolyov likened the new technology to the same principles of Veche democracy. It was in this city that the ancient tradition of “Veche democracy” began in the 1100s where voting was done in plain view for everyone to see. That practiced ended when Ivan III conquered the area in 1478.
Veliky is part of the Novgorod region and Mr. Putin’s United Russia party didn’t fare so well here in the latest Duma election, falling almost 50% from the 2008 vote totals. Citizens across Russia have complained about allegations of ballot box stuffing and other voting irregularities, which have hurt the public image of United Russia and Prime Minister Putin.
Russia has over 93,000 polling stations and Mr. Putin ordered each one to be equipped with the web cam technology. A government website will be launched sometime in February giving citizens the opportunity to observe voting as it happens across this vast country. Many of the polling stations lack internet access so it is being installed as well.
Each station will have two cameras with one always trained on the balloting areas while the other will stream panoramic views of the polling station. Officials say this will cut down on the threat of roving groups who travel from polling station to polling station.
Meanwhile the independent coalition group known as the League of Voters (ЛИГА ИЗБИРАТЕЛЕЙ) is seeking volunteer election monitors for the March election. Training will be provided and volunteers must be Russian citizens who currently reside in Russia. If interested, follow this link for an online registration application.