A third term in the Kremlin is the prize Vladimir Putin is almost certain to win today in a Russian presidential election that is short on suspense.
Despite street protests sparked by claims of fraud in December’s parliamentary poll, the prime minister looks set for outright victory, avoiding a run-off against any of his rivals.
Veteran Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov, 67, has stood for the presidency three times before, coming second on each occasion.
Flamboyant Vladimir Zhirinovsky, 65, leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, also has several failed presidential bids under his belt.
The only first-time candidate and the tallest man in the race, standing at over two metres, is billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, 46. Russia’s third richest man denies claims he was only allowed to run to lend legitimacy to the vote and to divert anti-Putin feeling into a safe channel.
Sergei Mironov, 59, was a firm Putin ally, his socially-oriented Just Russia party accused of being a Kremlin-backed creation. Recently however he has criticised the dominant man in Russian politics.
Putin is still seen as the paramount leader despite being constitutionally obliged to make way for his protege Dmitry Medvedev four years ago. Their job swapping is on course to continue with Medvedev now set to become Putin’s prime minister.