(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin’s ruling party is set to win a decisive victory in legislative polls despite simmering discontent after sidelining political opponents.

While Putin personally retains broad support, according to polls, his United Russia party recorded some of the lowest ratings in nearly a decade earlier this year, scorned by voters angry over stagnant living standards and unpopular policies. 

Official results from the Sept. 17-19 vote are expected Monday. Polling was extended to three days and online voting expanded. Turnout nationally was already at 35.7% as of 10 a.m. on Sunday, RIA Novosti reported.

The Kremlin has taken no chances, determined to ensure that United Russia wins another commanding majority in the State Duma, as the lower house of parliament is known. As well as eliminating rival politicians from the vote, authorities pressured Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc’s Google to remove protest voting apps from their online stores. Putin’s also pitched in with promises of as much as 700 billion rubles ($9.6 billion) in pension and other spending to woo voters.

“The Kremlin is showing that it maintains control,” said Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. 

Already Russia’s longest-entrenched ruler since dictator Josef Stalin, the 68-year-old leader last year took advantage of two-thirds control of parliament to push through constitutional changes that allow him to stay in office until 2036.

Flagging Support

Some polls put the ruling party’s popularity as low as 27%. Still, the Kremlin is seeking to get about 45% of the party-list vote, squeezing independent competitors off the ballot and keeping turnout down to ensure the impact of loyalist voters among state workers and pensioners, according to people familiar with the planning. The ruling party will make up the rest of the seats needed for control in the district races that allocate the other half of the spots, they said.

After mass protests triggered by elections in neighboring Belarus last year alarmed the Kremlin, Moscow strongly backed Belarus strongman President Alexander Lukashenko in crushing the opposition, despite criticism and sanctions from the West.


Russian authorities then mounted a fierce crackdown after tens of thousands of people rallied in cities across Russia in January following the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.  

Putin, Poison and the Importance of Alexey Navalny: QuickTake

After narrowly surviving a nerve-agent attack last year that he and Western governments blamed on the Kremlin, the 45-year-old Putin critic is in a penal colony. Russian officials deny any role in his poisoning.

Authorities banned his national network earlier this year, forced his supporters into exile or jail and did all they could to sabotage Navalny’s “smart voting” initiative that urges people to back the strongest candidate against United Russia.


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