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    Russians Expect Putin to Win, No Change in Government

    Russian election officials hold an election poster with portraits of the presidential candidates, Feb. 7, 2012.
    Russian election officials hold an election poster with portraits of the presidential candidates, Feb. 7, 2012.

    Russians are expected to elect Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to a historic third term as president on Sunday.  Many Muscovites doubt the country will change after Putin returns to the presidency.

    Voting has already begun in some regions of Russia as Muscovites contemplate for whom they will cast their ballots in Sunday's presidential election.  There are four opposition candidates running against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, although many believe they don’t stand a chance against the authoritarian leader who was president from 2000 to 2008.

    And, according to the last independent poll before the elections, conducted by the Levada Center,  Putin is expected to win with 62 to 66 percent of the vote, avoiding an embarrassing runoff.

    Muscovite Lusine, who preferred not to give her last name, says she knows Mr. Putin will win and that when he does, nothing will really be different here in Russia.

    "I don't expect anything very significant or any changes in the country as I think Mr. Putin will win, she says, adding that change will only happen if Mr. Putin decides things need to change," said Lusine.

    Recent polls show that 80 percent of Russians believe that Putin will return to the presidency and 57 percent still believe he is the nation’s leader even though Dmitry Medvedev is officially president.

    Alexei, who also didn’t want to use his last name, says this is a common view among Russians.

    "I am not a pessimist or an optimist, "he said. " I am a realist and I am not expecting any serious changes."

    On the other hand, Putin has faced unprecedented protests against his ruling United Russia party and his bid to return to the presidency.

    Hundreds of thousands of Russians have taken to the streets across the country since United Russia won the country’s parliamentary elections in December.  Demonstrators claim the party won by ballot stuffing and vote rigging, charges United Russia vehemently denies.

    As a result, Muscovite Lyubov says she thinks that after Putin is elected there will be mass demonstrations against his government.

    "I think after the elections there will be a financial and political crisis, and a crisis in our government," she said.

    If Putin is elected president again, he will be the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Soviet Communist Party chief Leonid Brezhnev.

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