MOSCOW – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has obtained the backing of nearly three-quarters of the country’s potential voters and looks set to easily win another term in office in the upcoming presidential election, according to an official poll released on Thursday.
Support for Putin increased by 1.5 percent compared to a similar survey conducted in January, with 71.4 percent of citizens now expressing their intention to vote for him, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) said.
Putin would thus likely crush his main opponent, Pavel Grudinin of the Communist Party – who only garnered 6.9 percent of voting intention in the poll – if the March 18 election were held today.
Grudinin’s lackluster figures represented a 0.3-percent decrease compared to the previous survey.
Other candidates fared even worse: coming in third position, Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party was backed by 5.7 percent of respondents, while the journalist Ksenia Sobchak, the only female contender for the Kremlin, obtained 1.3 percent of the intended vote.
The four remaining runners to head the world’s largest country all polled at abysmal levels below 1 percent, including Grigory Yavlinsky, who spearheads the social-liberal Russian United Democratic Party (popularly known by the acronym “Yabloko”).
According to VCIOM’s data, 79.3 percent of the poll’s respondents said the would vote in the election.
Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Progress Party, Alexei Navalny – a vociferous Putin critic and anti-corruption crusader – has been barred from running for office by the Central Electoral Commission due to prior convictions for embezzlement, charges which Navalny has denied and denounced as a frame-up plotted by the Kremlin.
While pollsters have stopped including him as a potential candidate, a survey by the Levada Center in April 2017 showed that 18 percent of those who recognized Navalny would either “definitely” or “probably” grant him their vote.
Putin – arguably the most powerful person in modern Russian history – was president from 2000-08, prime minister between 1999-2000 and 2008-12, and has been the incumbent president again since he won a third stint in 2012 after a constitutional reform abolished term limits.
If he were to win re-election in March, he would serve for another six years until 2024.