Russians voted yesterday in a parliamentary election in which the only question was whether President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party would win merely a strong majority of seats or a crushing share.
Opinion polls suggest the party could win up to 80% of seats
The election follows months of increasingly acidic rhetoric against the West and efforts - by law and by truncheon - to stifle opponents.
A huge win for Putin's party could pave the way for him to stay at the country's helm when his presidential term expires next European spring. The party brands the election as essentially a referendum on Putin's nearly eight years in office.
"He's a good man. Any woman would love to see him in her house," said Polina Amanyeva, 58, at a Moscow polling station.
Putin is constitutionally prohibited from running for a third consecutive term as president in March. But he has raised the prospect of becoming prime minister.
The dominance of United Russia provoked a fatalistic attitude in some voters.
"I think the result was pretty much planned in advance. I don't know who I'll vote for; I'll decide when I get to the booth," said Ivan Kudrashov, in his 20s, as he entered Christ the Savior Cathedral for Sunday Mass.
The vote is the first national ballot under new election laws that have been widely criticised as marginalising opposition forces. - Sapa-AP