Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, appears to remain mostly unchanged after countrywide elections on Sunday.

The ruling United Russia party maintains its dominance with 44.5 per cent of the votes, according to preliminary results released by the country's largest state pollster, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center.

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), which contrary to its name is actually composed of far-right nationalists, has surpassed the Communist Party as the second most popular. LDPR got 15.3 per cent of the votes, whereas the Communists got 14.9 per cent.

The social-democratic A Just Russia party maintains its position as the fourth most popular with 8 per cent of the votes. As in the legislature's previous composition, these four parties appear once again to be the only ones represented.

Sunday's elections were the first for the federal parliament since Russia annexed Crimea two years ago. Russia plunged into economic recession after the Crimea annexation amid tit-for-tat sanctions with the West, and Sunday's elections were seen as a barometer of support for the ruling United Russia party.

The countrywide voter turnout was almost 40 per cent three hours before the polls were scheduled to close. By 6 pm Moscow time (1500 GMT), 39.37 per cent of the country's registered voters had cast their ballots, the Central Elections Commission told the Interfax news agency.

The elections will determine all 450 members of the State Duma. Russia does not require a minimum voter turnout for Duma elections to be valid. There are no direct elections for the country's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, which consists of officials appointed from regional governments.

The Central Elections Commission and the independent monitoring agency Golos reported some allegations of ballot-box stuffing and so-called "carousel" voting, when one person votes multiple times. However, there appeared to be much fewer allegations than during the last parliamentary elections, in 2011, which were followed by mass protests.

Voters surveyed by dpa in Moscow on condition of anonymity insisted that their ballots would count.

A female pensioner said she was voting for the ruling United Russia party because she felt that if another gained power it could be destabilizing. She said she would not vote for the Communist Party, the second-most popular party in modern Russia, because she did not want a return to the Soviet Union.

A male voter in his 30s said: "There are no honest elections in Russia. Everybody knows that United Russia will win."

But he added: "I always vote because I don't want to give my vote away for the ruling party."

Another male voter around 40 years old said he was voting for the oppositionist Yabloko party, not because he particularly believed in their campaign, but because he wanted more voices of resistance in the legislature.

Yabloko, whose name translates as "apple," is a centre-left party that had representation in the Duma in the 1990s but was pushed out amid the rise of the United Russia party. It appeared under the 5-per-cent threshold, according to preliminary results.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is monitoring the elections throughout the country, except for the disputed territory of Crimea.

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