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Russia votes for Putin's successor

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  • Russian voters head to polls to pick president on Sunday
  • Hand-picked successor to President Putin is expected to win landslide
  • Some believe Putin will retain much of his power by serving as PM
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian voters will head to the polls on Sunday to pick a president, but the outcome is not expected to be a surprise: A hand-picked successor to President Vladimir Putin is expected to win in a landslide, after hardly even bothering to campaign.

While there is more than one candidate in the elections, Dmitry Medvedev -- a longtime close aide to Putin -- faces no serious opposition in his presidential bid.

Saturday is a "day of silence," with no campaigning or political advertising permitted in Russia. It's meant to be a day of reflection for voters; however, voters are left with little to reflect on.

Medvedev is expected to capitalize on the success of Putin's tenure as president, who remains incredibly influential and powerful in Russia. Many Russians believe he has led the country out of the poverty and uncertainty of the 1990s and is responsible for the current national economic boom. Video Watch as Russians prepare to choose new leader »

For most Russians, Putin's endorsement is enough reason to cast a ballot for Medvedev -- although there have been some unconfirmed reports of local political leaders pressuring voters to cast their ballots for him.

Little is known about Medvedev, however. He has worked Putin for many years, since Putin held posts in the St. Petersburg mayor's office.

He has made some public pronouncements during the campaign -- pronouncements that seem to suggest he is not as much of a hard-liner as Putin on foreign policy issues, said CNN's Matthew Chance.

He also has given the impression that he is more in favor of democracy and freedom of speech and of the press than Putin. However, it remains to be seen what he will do when he assumes power.

Some have questioned, in fact, whether Medvedev as a president will hold power at all, should he win. Putin has agreed to take the prime minister's post, which may be a way for him to perpetuate his power and continue to keep a firm hand on the nation.

The 2008 Russian race is in stark contrast to the political battles between candidates in the United States. The differences between the two are a hot topic on Russia's political talk shows.

"In a way, we are just on another planet," said Vladimir Soloviev, host of one talk show.

"Because in America, people vote for this or that person. In Russia, not really. In Russia, we say, 'You are right, Mr. Putin. We do like this guy. Why don't we go and vote for him?' It's not like we make a choice. We approve the choice of the president."

Medvedev did not even participate in presidential debates. However, other candidates did. They include Vladimir Zhironovsky, known as a firebrand ultranationlist rallying against foreigners; Gennady Zuganov, a Communist who preaches ideology most Russians have long since abandoned; and Andrei Bogdanov, who was relatively unknown until he mysteriously produced the 2 million signatures necessary for a presidential bid.

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"The U.S. has been building democracy for two or three hundred years," Bogdanov told CNN in an interview last month.

"Russia has had just 17 years. Democracy develops gradually. I understand we in Russia don't enjoy full freedom of speech as well as some other democratic procedures. But they're all developing, and I am confident that when I come to power, these procedures will meet the highest standards." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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