Police Have Studied Up For Voting

Around 450,000 police officers will be mobilized across the country Sunday to ensure order during State Duma elections, a senior Interior Ministry official said.

Police will not only be maintaining order on the streets, First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Chekalin told a news conference Tuesday, but have also been training for activities directly related to voting, including ensuring that voters can report election-rule violations and providing security for voting documents and ballots.

"We started working around Jan. 1 ... in order to achieve the calm atmosphere in which the elections must take place," Chekalin said.

He said the officers' preparation has included the study of election laws and the examination of documents filed by candidates and campaign materials for compliance with regulations.

Police had so far registered some 650 violations of election laws during this campaign, with nine criminal cases being opened and 648 people being charged with lesser, administrative offenses, according to a statement released by the Interior Ministry on Tuesday. Almost 5.5 million copies of illegal campaign materials had also been seized.

As for registration violations, the ministry said that of 5,792 candidates who submitted registration applications, 800 were found to have underreported their income, while another 300 failed to declare personal vehicles -- including one jet.

Chekalin said the same measures were being taken in the troubled North Caucasus region and that they should be sufficient there.

"There is no worry that the elections will be endangered in the Southern Federal District," Chekalin said.

During the March 2004 presidential elections, in keeping with a Soviet tradition to boost voter turnout, polling stations throughout Moscow offered snacks and beverages, which resulted in many people voting while at least a bit drunk.

This year, the Interior Ministry has not issued any orders regulating the sale of beverages close to polling stations, Chekalin said.