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Russia: Russians vote for new president
MOSCOW, (Xinhua): Russians went to polls on Sunday to elect a new president and incumbent Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win the election.
As Russia's vast territory encompasses nine time zones, voting first began in its Far Eastern regions, including Kamchatka and Magadan, at 08:00 a.m. local time (20:00 GMT Saturday), while voters in other parts of the Russian territory still have to wait for several hours to vote.
Local media said that some 65 percent of the 109 million eligible voters are expected to cast their ballots in some 94,000 domestic polling stations and 384 overseas stations in more than 140 countries.
Voters in Kaliningrad, the westmost exclave of Russia located between Poland and Lithuania, will be the last on the Russian territory to cast their ballots at 21:00 Moscow time (1700 GMT) on Sunday.
As of 04:00 GMT, the voting starts in the country's two biggest cities, namely Moscow and St. Petersburg. Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev with his wife would cast their votes at the polling station No. 2634 in a Moscow school, while presidential hopeful Putin would vote at the polling stations No. 2079 in the Russian Academy of Sciences, said their spokespersons.
In the Central Election Commission (CEC) in central Moscow, a video wall showing webcasts from polling stations across Russia was launched Sunday.
"For the first time in history we see in real time mode that the vote in the Chukotka (in the Far East) started. For the first time in history we can see everything at all polling stations," CEC Chairman Vladimir Churov told reporters here.
According to CEC, the video surveillance is conducted at 91,000 polling stations and over 1 million Internet users have been registered to monitor the vote online.
The Russian Interior Ministry said over 380,000 police officers would be on duty on the election day, among which 36,500 are deployed in the capital.
The five candidates running for the top office of the country are incumbent Prime Minister Putin, leader of the Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov, Vladimir Zhirinovsky from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Sergei Mironov from A Just Russia party and an independent candidate and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.
Opinion polls show that most voters are expected to support 59-year-old Putin who had served two terms as president from 2000 to 2008. But he may be forced into a second round if he gets less than 50 percent of votes in the first round.
The winner in the first round will be inaugurated as president early in May.
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