UPDATE: 7 a.m. EDT — Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party is expected to win 343 of 450 available seats in the country's parliament, after 93 percent of the vote had been counted, according to the Central Election Commission cited by Reuters. If the final numbers match expectations, it would give Putin's party 76 percent of the seats in Duma, giving him a landslide victory and an opportunity to become president for a fourth term.
UPDATE: 2 a.m. EDT — With 90 percent of the votes counted, Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia Party has won 54.2 percent of the vote in the Russian parliamentary elections. According to Reuters, which cited data from the country's election commission, the Communist party was a distant second with 13.5 percent of the vote.
UPDATE: 5:45 p.m. EDT — The Russian election commission reported Sunday the ruling United Russia Party had garnered 51 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections with 25 percent of the vote counted, Reuters reported.
UPDATE: 2:55 p.m. EDT — Exit polls give the ruling United Russia Party 44.5 percent to the nationalist LDPR’s 15.3 percent in parliamentary elections Sunday. The exit poll by VTsIOM put the Communists in third place with 14.9 percent and the Just Russia party at 8.1 percent, Reuters reported.
Russia went to polls Sunday to elect a new parliament that is predicted to bring more supporters of President Vladimir Putin into the country’s lower house, or the State Duma.
The polling stations opened at 8:00 a.m. local time (1:00 am EDT) and will stay open till 8:00 p.m. in each region, taking 22 hours to complete the country’s voting because of its vast expanse. The voters will choose 450 Members of Parliament in the State Duma, who will remain in power for the next five years.
As the outgoing Duma had a very limited number of MPs opposing Putin, the election is being touted as a preview for Putin’s next presidential campaign in 2018, which he has not confirmed yet.
Putin, 63, said the candidates would have “equal conditions for fair and open competition,” in a message before the elections commenced, the Wall Street Journal reported, while observers said that the results of the parliamentary elections would possibly maintain the status quo.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s ruling party United Russia, which wholly backs the president, has 238 of 450 Duma seats. It also dominates the regional parliaments, Reuters reported. The state television is known to show the party in a favorable light to the Russians. Three parties also back Putin — who enjoys a personal approval rating of about 80 percent — in the federal Duma.
The liberal opposition currently controls one seat in the lower house, but hopes to claim about 24 seats in this election. However, Reuters reported pollsters saying that there is a possibility of them managing only a handful, if any, seats.
This is also the first time that Russia is holding elections in Crimea, a controversial territory that it annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Mariana Betsa, a Ukrainian foreign ministry spokeswoman, maintained that no voting in the Russian election would take place in her country including Russian diplomatic and consular buildings, BBC reported. There are about 80,000 Russian voters living in Ukraine who are expected to vote at polling stations set up at the consular buildings.
Russia’s last parliamentary elections in 2011 had ended in mass protests against the president — who has been in power for 17 years, either as president or prime minister — with allegations over ballot box fraud. However, officials have made attempts to keep this election free from any unrest.
The first exit polls are due at 2:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday, while most results are expected to be out by Monday.