by Xinhua writer Shi Hao
MOSCOW, March 18 (Xinhua) -- Streets in Moscow are decorated with billboards showing the election slogan of "Choose the President, Choose the Future," as Russian voters are to caste their ballots to elect a president from among eight candidates today.
About 110 million Russian citizens are expected to cast their ballots at some 97,000 polling stations across the country to choose a new president for six years to come.
The No. 134 and No. 135 polling stations were set up at a middle school on Talalikhin Street in Moscow. The school gate was decorated with white, blue and red balloons, representing Russia's tricolor national flag.
"Around 30 voters in the neighborhood arrived even before the station opened at 8:00 a.m.(0500 GMT)," said Alexei Malikov, deputy head of the No. 135 polling station.
Posters about the eight presidential candidates' basic information and financial conditions were put up on the wall at the stations. Some voters stopped at the posters to study the materials, while others went directly to register.
In accordance with the voting rules, voters need to register with their identification documents and fill out their ballots in cubicles.
Electronic ballot boxes were introduced in this election and a printer-like machine on top of the box can read and record data when the ballot was sucked in. The whole process was monitored by observers and web cameras.
All polling stations in Moscow have been equipped with the electronic ballot boxes, which can help reduce the risk of fraud, said Malikov.
Incumbent President Vladimir Putin is seeking a fourth term and he faces competition from seven rivals, including Pavel Grudinin from the Communist Party and head of the Liberal Democratic Party Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Mekhriban Alieva, technician at a Moscow zoo, said she supports Putin as Russia has made progress in medical care, elderly care, education and economic development under his leadership.
If Putin wins, people's living standard will continue to improve, Alieva said.
Another voter said on condition of anonymity that she would vote for Grudinin because the candidate, head of a state farm, has the experience of economic management that Russia needs.
Polling stations will be open 12 hours from 8:00 a.m. (0500 GMT) to 8:00 p.m. (1700 GMT) local time across the country spanning several time zones. The voting will start from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East and end in Kaliningrad region in the Baltic.
Russia's Central Election Commission will confirm the election results by March 29.