Everyone should check out this NY Times article: Russia's Election Is for Parliament, but the Real Vote is on Putin and especially watch the 2 campaign commercials on the left. They're for United Russia, obviously Putin's party. Russian parliamentary elections are on Sunday, and Putin is slated to be at the top of his party's ticket.
Constitutionally, he can no longer run for President because you can't serve 3 consecutive terms. Now, he will become Prime Minister and United Russia will have enough seats in Parliament (as many as they want) to change the Constitution to give PM the majority of power (if they want).
Rumor has it that he's going to step down as President (see last paragraph), let someone else serve out the term, then run again for President in March arguing that, because he stepped down he, won't be serving a 3rd consecutive term. In a televised address, Putin said (among other things):
"We cannot allow the return to power of those who once tried but failed to rule the country," referring to the liberal politicians who advised his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.-- BBC
Enjoy the campaign commercials. For those of you who are unaware, over 70% of Russians really are VERY pro-Putin. He's got a cult of personality, with a youth organization ("Nashi") ready to do whatever it takes to see him keep power. They credit the booming economy and growing political clout solely to him. It's kind of like if America's economy was booming like the 1990's and Iraq had been a 6-month easy victory, and Osama Bin Laden had been captured-- Republicans would still dominate the government and Bush would be the most popular President ever.
Meanwhile, Putin decided to limit the number of election observers to 30-40, then OSCE observers were denied visas, which the U.S. quickly condemned. Afterwards, Putin blamed the U.S. State Department for telling observers not to go in order to make Russia look bad.
(Sorry, I didn't take the time to provide links to all my sources. Most are public media and most are linked in the 20 or so Russia blogs I subscribe to in my Google Reader).
This morning, I woke up singing this song. It sort of pokes fun at Putin but also shows his popularity. It was very popular earlier this year among Russians and ex-pats: