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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will probably win Russia’s presidential election in the first round on March 4, three surveys published today showed.
Putin has the support of 66 percent of decided voters, said Lev Gudkov, director of the independent Levada Center. The prime minister has 53.5 percent backing, the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, a state-run pollster known as VTsIOM, said today. Putin is set to capture 58.7 percent of the vote, according to the projection of the Public Opinion Foundation, or FOM, published today.
“A second round is very unlikely,” Gudkov said today at a news conference in Moscow. “Populist promises contained the downward trend and led to elevated expectations.”
Putin, 59, is seeking a return to the Kremlin amid the biggest challenge to his 12-year rule after fraud allegations at parliamentary polls sparked mass protests. The prime minister, who served as president from 2000 to 2008, needs to garner at least 50 percent to avoid a second-round runoff.
Since hitting a two-month high on Dec. 20 amid the protests, the yield on Russia’s benchmark dollar notes due 2015 has tumbled 107 basis points to 2.4703 percent today, a record low. The extra yield investors demand to hold Russian debt rather than U.S. Treasuries fell 86 basis points in the same period to 295 today, the lowest spread on a closing basis since Oct. 28, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) EMBIG indexes.
The ruble advanced 10 percent since Dec. 29 to 29.2805 by 3:48 p.m in Moscow today, its strongest level since Sept. 2. Russia’s Micex Index jumped 17 percent since hitting a two-month low on Dec. 12, beating the 15 percent gain for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index in the same period.
In the Levada poll, the institute’s last before the vote, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov was second with 15 percent, followed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party with 8 percent, then billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and former Putin ally Sergei Mironov at 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
Zyuganov is at 16.2 percent, Zhirinovsky may get 8.8 percent, Prokhorov 8.6 percent and Mironov 6.1 percent, FOM said in e-mail. Zyuganov was at 10.8 percent in the VTsIOM survey that included an option for those not planning to vote.
Levada’s survey was conducted from Feb. 17 to Feb. 20 and the VTsIOM poll was done Feb. 18 and Feb. 19. Both included 1,600 respondents and had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points. FOM surveyed 3,000 people in 64 Russian regions on Feb. 18 and 19. It didn’t give a margin of error.
Putin’s campaign pledges will raise government spending by 4.8 trillion rubles ($164 billion), or as much as 5 percent of economic output, through 2018, according to a Capital Economics estimate. The Russian leader’s power base is concentrated in medium and small cities and villages, where Putin is “a symbol of stability and hope for rising prosperity,” said Gudkov.
Potential disappointment over promises not kept may boil over into social tension later this year, according to Gudkov. Russians are continuing to lose faith in Putin, and a long-term rise in his popularity is “no longer possible,” he said.
“We’ll be living with a weak authoritarian leader,” Gudkov said. “And that’s a situation that won’t satisfy anyone.”
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