As Putin runs for president, citizens are weary

(CBS News) Russians vote in presidential elections Sunday. About 109 million people are eligible to cast ballots, with voting spanning ten time zones. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips is surveying the scene.

In a Russian political TV ad, a twenty-something woman goes to see a fortune teller. "Who will be her first love?" she asked with obvious innuendo.

The cards say the lucky man is -- with the card turned over -- Vladimir Putin.

You'll be happy with him," said the fortune-teller.

But not everybody is happy with Putin. Protesters have been on the streets concerned that this vote may be as rigged as the suspect parliamentary elections last year.

Putin said he's not worried the demonstrators may be the first harbingers of a democratic Russian Spring: "No, I am not concerned. I think about the people, the ordinary people in Russia..."

The citizens, though, are weary. Putin's famous strongman image no longer intimidates them as much, groups have formed to monitor Sunday's vote to try to make sure ballot boxes aren't stuffed this time, even if Andrei Buzin said his team doesn't have the numbers to watch everything.

"How many stations can you cover?" Phillips asked Buzin.

"About 2,000 polling stations."

"And there are about a 100,000 being used?"

"Yes, yes."

Yet Putin doesn't need to cheat. Ask these workers at this bakery an hour's drive from Moscow who they're going to vote for, and they reflect the national poll numbers. Putin, they say, offers what they want most: stability.

There may be a growing opposition movement to Vladimir Putin's methods. But there is still no widely acceptable alternative to Putin the man. For all the talk of a Russian Spring, it's still winter.

Two things that haven't changed since the fall of communism -- the weather and strongman politics.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.