Russians in the Far East have begun voting in a three-day parliamentary election in which most vocal Kremlin critics have been barred from running following a historic crackdown on the opposition.
Parliamentary and local polls in the world’s largest country spread across 11 time zones began on Friday, and as Muscovites prepared to go to bed, residents of the Far Eastern Chukotka and Kamchatka regions were gearing up to cast their ballots.
“Let’s go!” Ella Pamfilova, the head of the Central Election Commission, said in a live broadcast.
Voters will be able to cast ballots through to Sunday.
The polls, taking place after a few weeks of desultory campaigning but months of relentless official moves to shut down significant opposition, are unlikely to change the country’s political complexion.
There is no expectation that United Russia, the party devoted to President Vladimir Putin, will lose its dominance of the State Duma, the elected lower house of parliament.
Putin has urged Russians to vote, saying in a video message on Thursday that the “election of new composition is undoubtedly the most important event in the life of our society and country”.
With 14 parties fielding candidates for half of the Duma’s 450 seats that are chosen by party list, the election has a veneer of being genuinely competitive.
But the three parties aside from United Russia that are expected to clear the 5 percent support necessary to get a seat rarely challenge the Kremlin.