Alexa

Putin urges Russians to "make conscious choice" in Sunday's presidential vote

Putin urges Russians to "make conscious choice" in Sunday's presidential vote

President Vladimir Putin urged Russians on the last day of presidential campaigning Friday to cast their ballots, though the contest's outcome is all but certain.
In televised remarks Friday morning, Putin described the contest as a vital one. "The voice of each of you will be important in the March 2 vote," he said.
Putin told Russians that their support on Sunday will be important for Russia's next president so he can be "effective and confident, urging them to choose a president who can "bring real good to millions of people, to all citizens of our great motherland."
"These days you have a chance to independently answer these questions and make a conscious choice," he said.
Putin's remarks mark the end of a month-long campaign where the likely winner, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, has refused to debate his three opponents. But the Kremlin-backed candidate has received by far the most media coverage for his official visits to schools, churches and factories.
Although the race has provoked little excitement, a heavy turnout is expected, due to reports that government and business officials are pressuring their workers to vote. There are also allegations of bosses demanding that employees cast ballots at their workplace, so supervisors can ensure they support Medvedev.
Putin's popularity and the Kremlin's control over Russia's broadcast media are expected to ensure an easy win for Medvedev _ a longtime friend whom Putin has been grooming as his successor.
The constitution limits presidents to two consecutive terms, and Putin will step down in May. But he has said he will return as prime minister, the country's number two post.
Medvedev has pledged to continue Putin's policies, with an emphasis on internal stability and increasing Russia's international clout. He has also pledged to reign in the bureaucracy, battle corruption and expand freedoms.
In keeping with his pledge not to campaign, Medvedev met with Interior Ministry officials Friday to discuss increased funding for law-enforcement.
He has spent the campaign period traveling across Russia, visiting farms and industrial enterprises, meeting with youth at sporting event and the elderly at nursing houses _ the trips have dominated television newscasts in the past few weeks.
The three other candidates in the race are Communist Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, who claims to represent the liberal democratic opposition but is widely seen as a Kremlin-backed contender.
Two prominent liberal opposition figures _ Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion, and Mikhail Kasyanov, Putin's first prime minister who later became a critic _ were unable to get their names on the ballot.
On Thursday, Putin praised Medvedev during a two-hour-long televised meeting on new initiatives for improving Russia's health care, education, housing and agriculture.
Zhirinovsky, whose flamboyant style has been the only thing that has added any color to the campaign, on Friday held a rally in central Moscow that gathered only about 1,000 supporters.
Zyuganov Friday complained to election observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe about the media coverage skewed in favor of Medvedev. He said his activists have been detained or harassed in various parts of Russia.
"We've never seen a proper election campaign in Russia, and we still do not see it," Zyuganov told reporters.