Russia's political scene is being closely watched this weekend as President Vladimir Putin's party is tested in parliamentary and regional elections.
Despite the declining popularity of Putin's United Russia party – although not of Putin himself – it is still expected to win the September 18 elections to the lower chamber of parliament (the State Duma) and gain an absolute majority of mandates, analysts predict.
Voting got under way Saturday evening on the Chukotka Peninsula and polls will close in Kaliningrad at around 7.00 p.m. London time on Sunday, according to Reuters.
"Some newcomers are likely to enter parliament, but the chamber will continue to be dominated by pro-Kremlin parties," Otilia Dhand, senior vice president of risk consultancy Teneo Intelligence, said in a note earlier this week.
"Significant personal changes to the top economic team are also unlikely. While this will produce policy continuity, no material improvement in the outlook for structural reforms is expected after the vote," Dhand added.
The analyst noted that the expected the win for United Russia (UR) will come despite a slow decline in recent polls, with the party currently attracting 39 to 41 percent of decided voters, down from 44 percent to 47 percent a month ago and it being reliant on its leader Putin for retaining popular support.