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Factbox: Key facts about Russia parliamentary election

Russia votes in a parliamentary election expected to hand a big majority to President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

world Updated: Dec 03, 2007 02:19 IST

Russia was voting on Sunday in a parliamentary election expected to hand a big majority to President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party and help him keep a hold on power after his presidency ends.

Here are the key facts about the election to the State Duma, or lower house of parliament:

-- Polling stations open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time. Since Russia stretches across 11 time zones, the first polling stations on the Pacific coast opened at 2000 GMT on December 1 and the last stations will close at 1800 GMT on December 2 in Kaliningrad, Russia's westernmost outpost.

-- The precise figure of eligible voters will be announced after the polls. Altogether 108.9 million Russians had the right to vote in the last election in 2003.

-- More than 95,000 polling stations, including 350 abroad. Despite protests from Tbilisi, polling stations were located in Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where the majority of the population have Russian passports.

-- Voters are asked to place a tick next to their choice on a ballot paper that lists 11 political parties. For the first time, the ballot papers do not include an option to vote "against all".

-- Voters away from home on the election date, were allowed to request permission from their local polling station to cast their ballot elsewhere. In some remote areas, early voting has started two weeks before the election date.

-- Parties on the ballot paper have the right to send their observers to polling stations.

-- Russia has also invited 330 foreign observers to monitor the polls, far fewer than in 2003. The organizations which have sent observers include the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Council of Europe. The main election monitoring arm of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) pulled out, citing obstruction from the Russian authorities. But OSCE's parliamentary assembly was still sending observers.

The West has criticized Russia's decision to cut the number of foreign observers saying it put a question mark over the transparency of the vote.

-- The results of exit polls will be announced soon after the last polling station closes.

-- The first partial election results start arriving in the Central Electoral Commission as polling stations close, but they are made public only after the voting ends nationwide. In past elections, substantial results did appear earlier than midnight GMT.