31,000,000 people are voting in regional elections in Russia, in a poll which is widely seen as a dress-rehearsal for the country’s parliamentary vote in December, and the Presidential election next year. President Putin’s United Russia Party is expected to sweep the board, benefiting from an economy bolstered by high prices for the country’s oil and gas.
They’re turning out in 14 regions across the country, which include major centres of population, like Moscow, Murmansk and St Petersburg. Putin’s United Russia reckons a firm victory in the regions will pave the way for the election of a loyal parliament in December, and an endorsement of Putin’s successor when the country chooses in March, 2008.
But the campaign has not been without controversy. There were protests in St Petersburg, where the fiercely anti-Putin Liberal Yabloko party, has its powerbase. As a result, they’ve been banned from the ballot in the city where they were expected to have secured around 20 per cent of the vote.