Pro-Kremlin Party gains ground despite controversies in election

Early results have shown Russia's ruling United Russia party is set to win the country's parliamentary election amid allegations of electoral fraud and visible voter apathy in Moscow and St Petersburg.

The pollster also predicted that liberal opposition parties would fail to reach the 5% needed for party representation.

"We can already say that the party got a very good result - it won", Putin said Sunday at a joint appearance with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, United Russia's chairman, at its headquarters in Moscow shortly after polling ended. His next test will come in the 2018 presidential elections which, judging by the nature of Russian politics and Mr Putin's genuinely high approval ratings, he is guaranteed to win.

But despite Russia's economic malaise and tensions with the West over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, some observers had called the election campaign the dullest in recent memory. The Central Election Commission said United Russia's share of the vote stood at 46.28 per cent after about 11 per cent of votes were counted at 10pm.

The voting for the 450 seats in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, wasn't expected to substantially change the distribution of power, in which the pro-Kremlin United Russia party holds an absolute majority.

It is also the first time that the mixed principle has been used in elections to the State Duma since 2003, as in 2007 and 2011 Russians elected MPs from federal party lists only.

The CEC's early count on Sunday also had United Russia leading in the single-member constituencies, with 141 of the 255 constituencies going to the ruling party.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a polling station during a parliamentary election in Moscow, Russia, September 18, 2016.

"For the authorities it is important to preserve an air of decency", Yekaterina Schulmann of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration told the AFP news agency.

The Russian President's party could be on the road to victory as exit polls showed the powerful party had raked in the majority of the votes.

Electoral Commission chief Ella Pamfilova admitted that there had been problems in certain regions but officials said the number of violations was way down on the last vote.

In Russia, voting has begun in the parliamentary election today.

Prisons forced inmates to vote, producing a turnout of over 85%, reports Vedomosti daily.

Some 2,000 of those candidates ran as independents. This has angered the Ukrainian Government and Ukrainian nationalists, with reports emerging of scuffles breaking out after a group of people tried to stop Russian citizens voting at the Russian embassy in Kiev. Putin's popularity also hit record highs on a surge of patriotism after he annexed Crimea in 2014, even as worldwide sanctions helped push the economy into recession.

While there was no official turn out figure immediately available on Sunday evening, figures a few showed less than 40 percent of voters had cast their ballots a few hours before polls closed. Independent civil rights movement Golos said it had received 1768 complaints, mostly from employees claiming their bosses were forcing them to vote.

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