Amid criticisms that the election was nothing but an eyewash, the pro-Putin party is projected to win the Russia elections with a comfortable majority, albeit facing a significant erosion in vote share. According to early results from Reuters, United Russia, which supports Putin, had won just over 45 per cent of the vote, with its nearest rival, the Communist Party, at around 22 per cent. United Russia had, in the 2016 parliamentary polls, won just over 54 per cent of the vote.
The election is widely seen as an important part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to cement his grip on power ahead of the 2024 presidential election, in which control of the State Duma, or parliament, will be key.
The election Sunday lacked significant opposition presence after Russian authorities declared organizations linked to imprisoned Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin's most prominent foe, to be extremist. The voting was also marred by numerous reports of violations, including ballot-stuffing.
The early results showed three other parties that almost always support Putin returning to the State Duma, as well as the New People party, which was formed last year and is regarded by many as a Kremlin-sponsored project.
Ahead of the election, Putin expressed hope that the United Russia party would retain its dominance in the parliament, where it held 334 seats out of 450. But although the party is Putin's power base, it is far less popular than the president himself.
The vote this year saw most opposition politicians and activists barred from running as Russian authorities unleashed a massive effort to suppress protests and dissent.
Reports of ballot violations from Russian media, opposition politicians and election observers in the three-day vote have been flowing since Friday morning, when unexpectedly long lines formed at polling stations in Moscow and other cities. Some of those in line told reporters they were forced to vote by their employers, often a state-run institution.