Easy victory predicted for Putin as Russians go to the polls Sunday

Real competition largely absent from election

Russian are voting in a presidential election on Sunday, which is expected to give incumbent president Vladimir Putin as easy wake.

The Kremlin, however might not obtain the resounding mandate backed by large numbers which it wants, if many do not turn up to vote due to the one-sided contest.

Turnout is expected to be at around 70%, with 70% voting for Putin - almost 10 times what polls predict his nearest challenger will obtain.

Supporters see Putin as protecting Russian interests on the international sphere.

Alexei Navalny, a vociferous critic of Putin, had in December been barred from contesting the general election because of a fraud conviction.

Navalny has said he would organise protests following Putin re-election.

If Putin is elected, his longevity as president will be second only to Soviet Union dictator Josef Stalin.

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