Russians have begun heading to the polls in the country’s presidential election, widely believed to bring back former two-time president and incumbent Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin for another term.
Voters in Russia’s far east city of Vladivostock began voting eight hours ahead of the people in the capital Moscow on Sunday. The voting will end 21 hours later in the western exclave of Kaliningrad as there are nine time zones in the world’s largest country.
Despite the recent demonstrations that erupted over allegations of fraud during December’s parliamentary elections in Russia, the opinion polls envision a first-round win for Putin with 60 percent of the votes over his four rivals.
The forecasts give Communist contender Gennady Zyuganov second place with 15 percent. The tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov and the populist Vladimir Zhirinovsky are expected to battle for third place. The former Upper House Speaker Sergei Mironov is also said to rank the last.
Around 90,000 polling stations have been equipped with web cameras in an effort to demonstrate transparency to combat allegations of fraud.
Approximately 65 percent of the 109 million eligible voters are expected to cast their ballots at the 94,000 polling stations across the country.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is reportedly due to become prime minister under a prospective Putin presidency.
Putin’s presidency ended in 2008 after two consecutive terms because the Russian constitution prevented him from running a consecutive third term.