- Title: RUSSIA: Voters in Russian North divided in presidential election
- Date: 29th February 2012
- Summary: CHILD'S FACE
- Embargoed: 15th March 2012 12:00
- Location: Russian Federation
- Country: Russia
- Topics: Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA1I6K2EG05BE014BHZHPE9A472
- Story Text: People in the distant region of the Russian Far North, the Nenets autonomous district, say they are enthusiastic about voting at the country's presidential poll, which is expected to see Prime Minister Vladimir Putin win on March 4.
When asked in the streets of Naryan-Mar, the capital of the district, many residents said they supported Putin's course and saw no alternative to him as the country's president.
"I'm for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin because I think there is no alternative to him among other presidential candidates. I think other people will do the president's job worse than Vladimir Vladimirovich," Naryan-Mar resident Vladislav Noskin told Reuters.
Some people seem to be sceptical about all the candidates but would prefer Putin as at least an experienced politician.
"Who would I vote for? I'd rather vote for nobody, but most likely I will vote for Putin, I like his current programme, but what will be the result?" pensioner Valentina Pozdeyeva said.
The Nenets autonomous region is a poorly populated and developed Tundra region, near the coast of the Arctic Ocean, with an economy based on oil and gas extraction and reindeer breeding.
A proper road which could connect the region with the rest of Russia is still under construction, and the district can be reached by car only in winter, with the help of the so called 'zimniki' - winter roads on firm snow. Otherwise air traffic is the most convenient way to go to Naryan-Mar, weather allowing.
Still many people say they are satisfied with their life, even those who would rather vote for communists.
"We are satisfied with life, I wouldn't say we are (unhappy), the people in our district live rather well in general. They take care of pensioners, old people, that is why I don't want to criticise our authorities and say anything negative," a woman clearing snow at her private house said, adding off record that she would traditionally vote for the communists.
Some others however criticise local authorities for high unemployment in a region with rich natural resources and say the oil can not guarantee economic growth and stability forever.
"We should find that candidate who doesn't just propose improvements in living conditions but also the ways to achieve this. And how could it be done? It can be done only with stable industrial development, not just thanks to lots of oil," Ulyana Istomina, pensioner and supporter of the Russian communist party presidential candidate, said.
The local administration says it does much to support local people, many get significant benefits from the local budget, the road to the main Russian regions should be built soon and the region is expanding the communications network by installing fibre optic cables for sustainable telephone and web connections.
"We have a big social budget in the region and there are many unsolved infrastructure problems and infrastructure tasks before us. As we see it, our mission, our main goals and objectives are to to solve the infrastructure problems," Nenets autonomous district vice governor, Jan Berlin told Reuters.
Local communists, however, say their candidate in the upcoming presidential election, Gennady Zyuganov might still loose votes due to electoral violations, with the oil companies controlling many of the remote polling stations.
"When the oil companies organise polling stations at the oil fields, at their remote sites, then there are about 80 percent of votes given for (ruling) United Russia party, and the turnover there is at 80 percent or even more, so it is naturally in support (of the ruling party). It's very difficult to control it, because most of these remote polling stations are inaccessible, and it's very difficult for members of the district election commission, which includes our representatives, to go there. Sometimes they simply don't let our representatives in," Nenets district communist party branch leader, Alexander Sablin said.
Many of the reindeer herders at small remote nomad camps in the Tundra region have already participated in the early presidential vote.
The Nenets are the indigenous tribe people who mostly lead a nomadic form of life, migrating along the northern regions of Russia together with their reindeer. They live in light tents made of reindeer skins and wood, which are easily set up and then dismantled when the herders move from one location to another.
The herders can not travel to a regional centre or village, because they can not leave their reindeers on their own for a long time.
The Ledkov family stays in the Tundra almost for the whole year, reindeer breeder Ilya Ledkov says the changes are slow coming.
"There are always hopes for changes for the better, but perhaps we will still live like this, in tents, no one will change it for us. It's impossible to live here in mobile containers or in wooden houses, so we will carry all our belongings with us, in winter and in summer," Ilya said.
There are about 42 000 residents in the Nenets district, according to official statistics, with 31,533 registered voters, however not all of them nomad people. About 2,800 people participated in early voting at the last parliamentary elections in Russia, according to Russian media.
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