Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 37

The Central Election Commission has completed its registration of candidates for the March 26 presidential election. A total of eleven were registered: film director Stanislav Govoryukhin, Moscow-based businessman Umar Dzhabrailev, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, former Social Security Minister Ella Pamfilova, Spiritual Heritage movement head Aleksei Podberezkin, Acting President Vladimir Putin, former Deputy Federal Counter-Intelligence Service Chief Yevgeny Savostyanov, suspended Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev and Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky (Russian agencies, February 21; Vremya-MN, February 22).

Meanwhile, the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) announced yesterday that it will not collectively endorse any of the presidential candidates. The decision followed a meeting of the coalition’s coordinating council, which includes such luminaries as Anatoly Chubais, Yegor Gaidar and Boris Nemtsov. The SPS leaders apparently decided that SPS must not endorse anyone in order to avoid a split within the organization. SPS includes such first-generation democratic groups as Democratic Russia, many of whose leaders are strongly critical of Putin. A number of these leaders recently endorsed Titov (see the Monitor, February 21).

According to a presidential preference poll recently carried out by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), 59 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Putin were the elections to be held the following week. Zyuganov came in second, with 19 percent, and Yavlinsky third, with 4 percent. The poll, which was carried out over February 11-14 and sampled 1,600 people in 83 cities and towns in thirty-three of Russia’s eighty-nine regions, has a 3.8 percent margin of error (Russian agencies, February 21). While some observers have questioned whether Russia’s polls are fully free from political bias, there can be little doubt that VTsIOM’s poll is in the ball park. The only question that remains is whether Putin will get the simple majority of the popular vote to win March 26, or whether there will have to be a run-off. While the VTsIOM poll suggests that he will win in a first round, other polls have suggested that his popularity may have dropped below 50 percent.