Russians began casting their votes to select the country’s next president on Sunday. Eight candidates are running for the country’s highest office, according to TASS.
Polling stations opened in eastern Russia at 8 pm GMT on Saturday and will close in the country’s exclave on the EU border, Kaliningradm, at 6 pm GMT on Sunday, AFP reported. Russia stretches across 11 time zones. “More than 97,000 ballot stations will be used for the voting, 48,000 in cities and more than 48,000 in villages,” Central Election Commission head Ella Pamfilova told TASS. “Some 2,300 ballot stations will work for special groups of voters at the places of their temporary stay.”
More than 107 million Russian citizens are eligible to vote. However, analysts have said that they expect a low voter turnout, as many people are suffering from “Putin fatigue” and may skip the elections. Incumbent Vladimir Putin has been at the helm since 2000. He served two presidential terms before taking on the role of prime minister because of restrictions imposed by the Russian Constitution. Critics alleged that he continued to remain in charge with his ally Dmitry Medvedev serving as a puppet president.
With Putin’s main contender, Alexei Navalny, barred from contesting the election, the result is expected to be predictable. Putin will most likely take charge as the president for a fourth term, analysts have said. Voter turnout will be the only element of surprise.
In response to the ban, Navalny has urged his supporters to boycott the elections, which he called a “sham”.