Putin to win Russian election in first round: poll
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Vladimir Putin will be elected president in the first round of March’s election with more than half the vote, avoiding a runoff that would dent his authority on the eve of his planned return to the Kremlin’s top job, a state pollster predicted Monday.
Prime Minister Putin hopes to convincingly win the March 4 election in order to take the sting out of a growing urban protest movement which casts him as an authoritarian leader who rules through a corrupt and tightly controlled political system.
Once cast as Russia’s “alpha-dog” leader by U.S. diplomats, talk of anything less than complete victory for Russia’s paramount leader was unthinkable before the protests, the biggest of his 12-year rule.
Putin is likely to win 58.6 percent of the vote, far ahead of his closest rival, said Russia’s Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), which has a history of accurately predicting the results of Russian elections.
“Putin will gain victory,” the pollster’s general director, Valery Fedorov, told reporters in Moscow. The forecasts were based on a poll of 1,600 people carried out across Russia this month.
Second place will go to veteran Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who is likely to win 14.8 percent, the pollster said.
A mood change against Putin among voters in major cities has stoked speculation that the former KGB spy might face the humiliation of winning less than half of the vote, undermining his claims of majority support and triggering a second round.
Putin even conceded this month that he may face a second round, though he warned such a step would stoke infighting and undermine Russia’s political stability.
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