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Putin's party expected to win Russian election

Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party is expected to win the parliamentary election as voting began early Sunday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party is expected to win the parliamentary election as voting beganearly Sunday.

The government's control of the media has boosted his party, as state television has broadcast his complete speeches.

The opposition has cried foul, but to no avail. "There's been all sorts of dirty tricks," the CBC's Bill Gillespie said.

The Communists are a distant second among the 11 parties seeking seats in thelower house, the Duma.

Putin is forbidden to runfor a third term aspresident. But he could hold on to power asprime minister if United Russia wins a majority.

Putin has been highly critical of the West during the campaign, and suggested voting for other parties is a vote against Russia. On Thursday, he returnedto that theme, saying foreigners are interfering in Russian affairs.

Putin wants not only to win, but to win with a big turnout, Gillespie said. Institutions and companies linked to the government are pressuring employees to vote, suggesting that a failure to show up at work and vote on Sunday could affect their Christmas bonuses, he said.

Voting started in Russia's eastern regions, and ends inKaliningrad in the west at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.