Poll predicts Putin’s first-round election victory

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s leading independent polling company says Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected take victory in the presidential election in the first round. Levada Center’s chief Lev Gudkov said Friday that the latest poll data show that Putin may win up to 66 percent of ballots in the March 4 election. The data indicated that Putin has managed to reverse a drop in popularity following December’s fraud-tainted parliamentary election that stoked massive public protests. Putin needs to win more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff that would tarnish his father-of-the nation image. Putin won his previous two presidential terms in 2000 and 2004 in the first round. He moved…

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