Russians vote in local polls seen as test for key elections

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Russians in several regions across the country voted Sunday in local elections, with the results expected to gauge the nation's mood ahead of parliamentary polls later this year and presidential elections in 2012.

The most significant polls are for regional parliaments in 12 Russian regions, including Dagestan in the volatile North Caucasus and the exclave of Kaliningrad which last year saw a series of opposition protests that unnerved the Kremlin.

Analysts say lethargy plagues the country's political life, and the elections were, as usual, expected to be won by the ruling United Russia party, which dominates the national parliament and boasts Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as its paramount leader.

The election results are expected to determine the Russians' mood ahead of parliamentary elections set for December which in turn are seen as a dress rehearsal for next year's presidential vote.

Putin and his protege, current President Dmitry Medvedev, have both said they would agree who would run for president in 2012 so as not to compete with each other.

While Russian authorities have seen increased rumblings of protest and criticism on the Internet in recent months, analysts say the ruling duo's grip on power is firm and the threat of Arab-style revolts in Russia is miniscule, at least for now.

More than 24 million Russians were eligible to vote in Sunday's polls, said the Central Election Commission.

© 2011 AFP

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