Russian olim, tourists vote in presidential election

Immigrants from Russia flock to polling stations across Israel to vote in the Russian presidential elections.

 NATAN SHUSTIN, a Moscow native, casts his ballot 390 (photo credit:  NATAN SHUSTIN, a Moscow native, casts his ballot)
NATAN SHUSTIN, a Moscow native, casts his ballot 390
(photo credit: NATAN SHUSTIN, a Moscow native, casts his ballot)
Despite the cold and rainy weather, Russians in Israel flocked to polling stations set up across the country on Sunday to vote in the Russian presidential elections.
By 4 p.m. Sunday about 7,800 Russians – tourists and immigrants with dual citizenship – had cast their ballots, according to the Russian Embassy’s press service.
Around 160,000 Russians in Israel have the right to vote in the presidential elections, and the embassy opened 13 polling stations, including in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Ashkelon, all of which have sizable populations of Russian immigrants and tourists, but also in smaller cities including Eilat and Upper Nazareth.
In Tel Aviv, people were already standing in line outside the Russian Consulate on Ben- Yehuda Street at 8 a.m., when polls opened, and according to Russia’s Channel One, by 10 a.m. more than 1,500 people had voted at the station.
Even polling stations in the smaller towns reported a large turnout. In Karmiel, Boris from the polling station at the Russky Klub on Mishaol Harakefet Street told The Jerusalem Post that there had been a steady stream of voters.
“There were a lot of people, a real crowd,” he said late on Sunday afternoon. “There’s still time to come and vote,” he added, noting that the polls would remain open until 8 p.m.
According to Israeli blogger and photographer Daniel Nasibov, reporting for Russian- language Channel 9, several voters at the Beersheba polling station said they had voted for Putin.
“Who else is there to vote for? [Communist Party candidate Gennady] Zyuganov? 70 years of communism was enough,” one voter said.
Haifa-based Russian news portal Novosti Haifa reported large crowds of voters in the northern city. Russian consul-general in Haifa Igor Popov said he was satisfied with the turnout, and that he believed Russians had started to take voting more seriously.
The Russian Embassy kept up a steady stream of Twitter posts about the elections throughout the day, tweeting photographs of voters around Israel. One photo showed a group of Russian Orthodox priests from the Gornensky Monastery in Ein Kerem, who traveled together to Jerusalem’s Russian cultural center on Jaffa Street to vote.
Russians living overseas were able to vote at 384 polling stations in 147 countries, with the Russian Central Election Commission sending some 1,300,000 voting slips to diplomatic missions.
The high turnout in Israel was seen in other countries as well, according to news agency ITAR-TASS, which cited Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov as saying that voting among overseas Russians had been “active” and “higher than in the Duma elections in December.”
Voters had a choice of five candidates: Nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky (Liberal Democratic Party), Gennady Zyuganov (Communist Party of the Russian Federation), Sergey Mironov (Just Russia), independent candidate Mikhail Prokhorov, billionaire former leader of probusiness party Right Cause, and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (United Russia).