The upper house of the Russian parliament has set the date of next year's presidential elections as March 4, 2012.
Once the decision has been published later Friday in the official parliamentary paper, the Ria Novosti news agency explained, parties will be allowed to nominate their candidates and the presidential campaign will officially be on.
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While there are signs that Putin's popularity is waning, said the Guardian, he is still "certain to win" on March 4:
Any political opposition has been sidelined or co-opted during his 11-year tenure as Russia's most powerful politician.
A Levada Centre poll released on Friday showed that if the vote was held this coming Sunday, just 31% of respondents would vote for Putin – a higher number than for any other candidate, but far from the majority.
If Putin is re-elected, he would also stand to enjoy a longer stay in power, said the BBC, after a 2008 amendment to Russia's constitution extended presidential terms from four to six years from 2012.
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Other opposition parties have not yet announced whether they will participate.
Russia will hold parliamentary elections on December 4, 2011. Putin's United Russia is the frontrunner in those too, said the BBC.