Regions Putting on Election Shows

APAn actor in a bear costume campaigning for presidential candidate Dmitry Medvedev in Vladivostok on Tuesday.
Hello to Spring! Goodbye to Winter!

Don't worry if you've never heard of either of these festivals, as neither had anyone else until regional officials conjured them up to entice people from their homes and down to their local polling station Sunday.

Perks being offered to voters at polling stations in different regions across the country include the chance to win a car, vote for Sochi's 2014 Olympic mascot, attend free concerts or fill up on free pancakes.

The need to get every last ballot into the box appears to have regional officials thinking outside it.

Come Sunday, every major pollster predicts that Dmitry Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's handpicked successor, will be voted Russia's next president.

But analysts say the Kremlin's position is clear: For Medvedev to be handed the moral authority to implement whatever policies he sees fit, he will need a significant turnout. The more votes, the greater the legitimacy.

Central Elections Commission officials have predicted a nationwide turnout of 65 percent.

Sochi city administration spokesman Dmitry Mikheyev said everything was being done to boost turnout.

"There will be a holiday atmosphere; the city will be alive," Mikheyev said.

The program will include concerts and raffles on public squares to draw crowds and free public transport to help people get there. Local businesses have put up the prizes.

Only people who cast a ballot will qualify for a raffle ticket, with prizes including three cars -- one red, one white and one blue -- food discount vouchers and night-club tickets.

Voters will also get to pick their favorite of four potential mascots for the 2014 Winter Olympics, to be held near Sochi.

Four designs made the shortlist from mascots submitted by local schoolchildren: a polar bear, a dolphin on skis, a snowflake on skis, and Santa Claus holding the Olympic flame.

The mascot voting slip has been delivered to 270,000 Sochi residents, who are required to fill in their personal information on the back and cast their vote at the polling stations, after voting for the president.


www.sochiad.ru
The four designs on the shortlist for mascot of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Mikheyev stressed, however, that it was unlikely that the winning mascot would get the nod for Sochi 2014.

"This is just for the people of Sochi," he said.

In parts of Chelyabinsk, some authorities are even getting a jump on the sacred Maslenitsa celebrations to get out the vote.

The holiday, which officially begins March 3, will be celebrated with traditional pancakes in some of the city's parks and squares, said Tatyana Kravtseva, a city administration official working in cooperation with the regional election commission to raise turnout.

Other parts of the city will celebrate a "Goodbye to Winter" festival, and discount grocery markets will be set up around many polling stations.

Most other regions are following much the same approach.

The bread-and-circuses approach to election day was a Soviet tradition: It included selling difficult-to-find food items -- typically salami, cheese and red caviar -- at cut-rate prices. Post-Soviet polling stations have updated this tradition by adding numerous -- and often bewildering -- services and attractions, from a lottery where everyone wins a prize, to karaoke or toy-making workshops.