Russia is poised for a general election campaign highly influenced by President Vladimir Putin’s popularity. President Putin has set Dec. 2 as the date for elections to the State Duma, the lower chamber of parliament. Campaigning gets under way this week. Russia has many political parties, standing on platforms from ultra-nationalism to pro-Western reformism. But critics say the elections will not be fair, as the electoral system has been engineered to ensure parties loyal to President Putin will be most successful. (BBC)

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