MOSCOW - Vladimir Putin's ruling party could see its vast parliamentary majority cut back on Sunday in elections widely seen as a test of his popularity ahead of an expected return to the presidency early next year.
Voters turned out from the Pacific to the Baltic coasts in the world's biggest country where Putin restored central control and revived the economy in a 2000-2008 presidency. He remains by far the most popular politician in the country but there are signs Russians may be wearying of a cultivated strong man image.
Some voters expressed disgust with a parliamentary poll they said was likely to be rigged. Others said they backed the United Russia party of Putin, who has continued to exert influence as Prime Minister since yielding the presidency to Dmitry Medvedev under a constitution forbidding more than two consecutive terms.