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Feature: Web cams reveal more than transparent Putin election
[March 05, 2012]

Feature: Web cams reveal more than transparent Putin election

MOSCOW, Mar 05, 2012 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The 2012 Russian presidential election is drawing to an end without much suspense, not only because of Vladimir Putin's landslide victory but also thanks to hundreds of thousands of web cameras revealing more than just a transparent election.

For well over 24 hours, Internet users of whatever political inclinations could enjoy a nationwide real-time Reality Show of sorts.

From Kamchatka to Kaliningrad and from Chechnya to Chukotka, more than 2.5 million net surfers registered to view live streaming from at least 188,000 web cams installed in more than 94,000 polling stations on Russian territory.

The live streaming has helped hush claims of vote rigging while entertaining quite a few others.

In one rural polling station, set up in a private home in the mountains, a couple in their fifties with a small baby fascinated net surfers, generating heavy traffic on Twitter. In an urban polling station, a young couple was caught making out in the hours leading up to voting.

Besides the pre-balloting scenes, the web cams served their expected purpose in the 12 hours when online volunteers, actual voters, and international observers took full advantage of the coverage to witness a smooth voting process that ended with Putin polling in 63.75 percent of the votes cast.

"It impresses," said Putin early Monday in his election campaign headquarters in Moscow. "I have spoken with counterparts from the diplomatic representations who say nothing of the kind exists elsewhere." Stanislav Govorukhin, chief of the headquarters, recalled he had attempted to object to the installation of web cams.

"You tried to save money," Putin joked back.

The installation cost 13 billion roubles (450 million U.S.

dollars) and the real-time online viewing system covered all the polling stations throughout Russia, the company which installed it said.

"Now we should use (the system) in the future," the Russian president-elect said.

Russian Communications Minister Igor Shchegolev said 99.3 percent of the web cams were working and requests for technical support totaled 18,000 phone calls and 19,000 e-mail messages.

The support system had worked well, the minister said.

At peak viewing time, more than 400,000 people were logged onto the Elections-2012 site at the same time.

According to the minister, the most popular polling stations had been those where presidential candidates went to cast their votes.

"From five to ten thousand (net) users visited those sites at a time," he said.

Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) chief Vladimir Churov even suggested promoting the initiative in France and the United States.

"I am ready to propose the same system for the presidential elections in France and the United States. Many programmers from our country work there and they can help (with it)," the election master said.

"This video surveillance is organized in such a way as to guarantee the secrecy of voting," CEC secretary Nikolai Konkin explained. "I can assure you that it will not be possible to see who votes for whom." Johan Beckman, a Finnish national in Moscow monitoring Sunday's presidential election, described the polling web system as "a landmark in the history of democracy and democratic elections" and said there were no such systems in any other country in the world.

Other international observers, commenting at the election media center in Moscow, agreed with the Finn, saying the system exceeded world standards.

It was surprising how such a complicated electoral mechanism had run so smoothly, independent observer Alessandro Mussolini from Italy said.

The polling web cams were not without their problems, however.

They had become targets of thieves.

Yuri Demidov, chief of the law and order section under the Russian Interior Ministry, reported 13 cases of the equipment being stolen.

"One of the crimes was committed in the Dyatkovo district of the Bryansk region," said the official. "The theft was identified; the web camera was confiscated, and the criminal case was opened," he said.

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