Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarus president, dubbed the leader of "the last true remaining dictatorship in the heart of Europe", is on course to clinch a controversial fourth term.
By Andrew Osborn, Moscow 5:13PM GMT 17 Dec 2010
Mr Lukashenko, a former Soviet collective farm boss, has been in power since 1994 and is already Europe's longest-serving leader despite his pariah image in the West.
Earlier this year he fell out badly with Russia, his long-standing sponsor, but has since patched things up with the Kremlin and looks set to easily win another four-year term in power on Sunday.
"Lovers' quarrels are soon mended," Mr Lukashenko boasted earlier this month when asked about his dispute with Russia. "Our relations worsened unexpectedly and will improve unexpectedly." There would be no change of power in Belarus, the 56-year-old autocrat added.
Even though Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, has made no attempt to disguise his contempt for Mr Lukashenko personally, the Kremlin grudgingly agreed to continue to subsidise Belarus with cheap oil and gas next year.
Analysts said Russia was keen to keep Belarus in its sphere of influence and was therefore willing to tolerate Mr Lukashenko for now.
On Mr Lukashenko's watch, Belarus, with a population of 10 million, has been frozen in a neo-Soviet time warp.
There is no stock market, the secret service is still called the KGB, and capital punishment still exists in the form of a bullet in the back of the head.