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    Putin Seeking to Regain Russian Presidency

    Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin casts his ballot in Moscow on Sunday, March 4, 2012.
    Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin casts his ballot in Moscow on Sunday, March 4, 2012.

    Russians are voting in a presidential election that is likely to return Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin for a record third term.

    More then 200,000 volunteer poll watchers are keeping a close eye on the voting, hoping to avoid allegations of fraud like those the opposition leveled against the December 4 parliamentary elections.

    Another 600,000 Internet users have registered to monitor web cameras installed in all of Russia's nearly 100,000 polling stations.

    Mr. Putin, who is currently prime minister, is looking to return to the job be held from 2000 until 2008. The constitution barred him from a third consecutive term.

    A pre-election opinion poll conducted by the Levada Center - a Russian non-governmental research organization predicts he will win at least 62 percent of the vote -- enough to avoid a runoff.

    But the allegations of fraud in the December parliamentary elections and the possibility of another 12 years of a Putin presidency brought out an unprecedented number of anti-government protesters in Russia in recent weeks.

    Mr. Putin faces four challengers, most of whom are familiar faces in Russian politics.  Communist Party head Gennady Zyuganov is expected to place second in the vote, while nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, a newcomer, are expected to battle for third place. Former Putin ally Sergei Mironov placed last in the 2004 presidential election and is expected to do so again.

    • Leaders of the street opposition predict that election officials will declare a Putin victory shortly after the polls close. They are organizing mass protests for Monday in Moscow and Russia's other big cities.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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