Russians head to the polls Sunday for a presidential election that is expected to return Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the presidency, despite unprecedented protests against him and his ruling United Russia Party.
The last independent public opinion poll ahead of the election conducted by the Levada Center – a Russian non-governmental research organization – says Putin is expected to avoid a runoff election with 62 to 66 percent of the vote in Sunday’s vote.
Hundreds of thousands of Russians have taken to the streets across the country since Putin’s United Russia Party won the country’s parliamentary elections in December. Demonstrators claim the party won by ballot stuffing and vote rigging – charges the party denies.
Recent polls show that 80 percent of Russians believe Putin will return to the presidency, and 57 percent believe he is still the nation’s leader, even though Dmitry Medvedev is officially president. Putin served two terms as Russia’s president, from 2000 to 2008.
Polls open in Russia’s far east at 2000 UTC Saturday, and close in western Kaliningrad 21 hours later at 1700 UTC Sunday.