Russia votes for Duma with pro-Putin party set to win

APRussian President Vladimir Putin voting in the polls in Moscow on Sunday.

The ruling United Russia party is expected to win even greater dominance over Russia’s lower house in a parliamentary election on Sunday, showing that support for President Vladimir Putin is holding up despite sanctions and a deep economic slowdown.
The election for the Duma, or lower house, is being seen as a dry run for Mr. Putin’s expected presidential campaign in 2018.

It is also a test of how well the Kremlin can oversee trouble-free elections. It will be the first parliamentary vote since 2011, when allegations of ballot-rigging sparked big protests against Mr. Putin in the capital.

Voting got under way at 2000 GMT on Saturday on the Chukotka Peninsula opposite Alaska and was to wrap up in Kaliningrad, Russia’s most westerly point, where people can cast their vote until 1800 GMT on Sunday.

United Russia, led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a Putin loyalist, has 238 of 450 Duma seats, dominates the more than 80 regional Parliaments, and is routinely depicted in a favourable light by state television.

The liberal opposition hopes it can break through to win about two dozen seats. Pollsters say it will be lucky to snag a handful and may end up with none.

Anxious to avoid a repeat of 2011’s street protests, Kremlin officials have tried to assure Russians that the vote will be the cleanest in the country’s modern history.

First vote in Crimea

Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe are being allowed to monitor the vote.

The election is the first time that voters in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, are helping decide the makeup of the Duma. That has angered the Ukrainian government and there were scuffles between Ukrainian nationalists and police outside the Russian embassy in Kiev on Sunday after a few nationalists tried to stop Russian citizens from voting there.

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