Russia Other


Putin firmly leading polls but risks a run-off

Just ahead of the presidential elections on 4 March, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin remains the clear frontrunner in the opinion polls. However, Putin faces the possibility of a run-off for the presidency. Putin has, in fact, lost popularity in recent months, following allegations of rigging the December parliamentary elections in favour of his United Russia party. Surveys show that the former President might not get the necessary majority to win elections in the first round. According an opinion poll by the state-run All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), Putin will win 52% of the votes, while the next candidate, Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist Party, will gain a 10% of the popular vote. However, an earlier survey by independent pollster Levada Center gives Putin as low as 37% of the votes. Putin needs to gain at least 50% of the ballot to win the elections in the first round. Meanwhile, protests against Putin and in favour of a change in the Russian political landscape continued at the beginning of the year. On 4 February, opposition activists gathered thousands of protesters in Moscow and other major cities, asking voters not to support Putin and to vote for candidates promising new parliamentary elections within a year and new presidential elections within two years. Allegations of irregularity, which overshadowed parliamentary elections in December, also mar the current presidential campaign. On 27 January, the Russian electoral commission barred Grigory Yavlinsky of the liberal Yabloko party from running, citing violations in submitting his application. However, Yabloko party personnel believe that the electoral commission decision was grounded on the role of Yavlinsky in sparking December's protests by denouncing the alleged vote-rigging. In addition, Yavlinsky had announced the deployment of thousands of election monitors in order to prevent irregularities in the 4 March vote.

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