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Poll indicates Putin could fall short of majority in presidential election
May 18, 2003

President Vladimir Putin would have received 49 percent of the vote if new elections had been held Sunday, slightly lower than earlier in the year and short of the simple majority needed to avoid a run-off under Russian electoral rules, an opinion poll indicated.

The results of the poll by the Public Opinion Foundation were released Thursday and led news reports on the independent radio station Ekho Moskvy on Sunday, two days after Putin's final annual address to parliament before the presidential election next March.

Given a list of 10 potential candidates, 49 percent of the 1,500 people interviewed face-to-face in the nationwide poll conducted May 10-11 said they would vote for Putin if presidential elections were held Sunday, the polling agency said on its Web site. It gave no margin of error.

Putin easily led the field - Community Party leader and perennial candidate Gennady Zyuganov was next with 15 percent - but the number of people who said they would vote for the incumbent was down from 51 percent in polls by the same organization last year and in January.

Since then, the numbers have hovered around 50 percent - rising from 49 percent in February to 50 percent in March and early April before falling to 48 percent in a poll conducted in late April. In 2001, the number was 46 percent, the Public Opinion Foundation said.

The results suggest that Putin, who won outright in March 2000 with nearly 53 percent of the vote after being named acting president by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin four months earlier, might fail to win in the first round next year but would be highly likely to win a run-off against the second-place candidate.

Zyuganov's support level in the organization's polls has not exceeded 15 percent since 2001, though he does appear to have gained on Putin since 2002, when 13 percent said they would vote for him, compared Putin's 51 percent.

In the latest poll, 5 percent said they would vote for outspoken nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, 3 percent for regional governor Aman Tuleyev, and 2 percent each for Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, liberal party leader Grigory Yavlinsky and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Boris Nemtsov, another liberal leader, would receive 1 percent apiece, the poll indicated.

Meanwhile, overall support for Putin's performance remained high, with 85 percent of respondents saying he was doing an excellent, good or satisfactory job and 13 percent rating his performance as poor or very poor.

Putin, whose popularity comes largely thanks to relative economic stability after a decade of chaos, has not officially announced he will seek a second term, but he is widely expected to run and Friday's speech was seen as the start of his campaign.

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