MOSCOW - In an effort to get voters to cast ballots Sunday in a runoff presidential election in the Siberian republic of Yakutia, officials offered voters cash discounts and a chance to win a new car.
None of six candidates won a majority of votes in the first round of voting on Dec. 23, leaving two contenders for the post: Vyhacheslav Shtyrov, head of the Russian diamond monopoly Alrosa, and local businessman Fedot Tumusov.
Election officials, fearing poor voter turnout could invalidate Sunday's election, offered residents incentives to go to their polling stations, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
In the first round, a family casting ballots was given a coupon for a discount of 100 rubles (dlrs 3.2) on utility bills, the news agency said. In the second round, a family received a coupon for 150 rubles (dlrs 4.9) for voting.
Also, there was to be a special lottery for voters, with the grand prize of a new Volga automobile, ITAR-Tass said.
The incentives were apparently effective, and the election was declared valid late Sunday afternoon, with 68.8 percent of registered voters casting ballots, ITAR-Tass said.
Vladimir Mikhailov, chairman of Yakutia's Central Electoral Board, had urged candidates to do all they could to get voters to the polls. "The results of the election should be convincing so that no one will have grounds to demand their revoking," he said, according to ITAR-Tass.
Sunday's voting ended a long and turbulent election campaign in Yakutia, Russia's largest constituent republic, also known as Sakha-Yakutia. Initially, there were 11 candidates, but five dropped out in the days before the first round of balloting.
The region takes up nearly one-fifth of Russia's territory, but has less than 1 million residents, or 0.68 percent of the country's population. It is rich in diamonds and other natural resources.
Shtyrov, who has the backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was favored to win the election, with preliminary results expected Monday.
If elected, Shtyrov would have leave his post in Alrosa, which extracts 98 percent of Russia's diamonds, the Moscow Times reported. He had served as the republic's prime minister from 1993 to 1995, when he landed the job as head of the diamond monopoly.
Presidential elections were also held in the Caucasian republics of Adygei and Kabardino-Balkaria.