Putin faces presidential election run-off: poll
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will need a second round run-off to win next year's presidential elections amid declining popularity ratings and protests, opinion polls said Friday.
Putin will win only 42 percent in the first round of the March presidential elections, for the first time needing a second round against his Communist challenger, said a poll by the state-controlled All Russian Public Opinion Centre (VTsIOM).
After a term as prime minister, Putin is planning to return to the Kremlin in the polls and take over from President Dmitry Medvedev for a historic third term.
But such a rating would mark a serious erosion in his once invincible support which in his last presidential election victory in 2004 saw him win over 70 percent of the vote.
However his nearest rival Gennady Zyuganov is still lagging far behind on 11 percent, leaving him almost certain of victory in the second round.
The VTsIOM poll also showed a slide in Putin's popularity ratings over the last month, which saw elections won by his United Russia that the opposition said was rigged and tens of thousands take to the streets in protest.
Some 51 percent of Russians approved of Putin's work as prime minister, down sharply from 61 percent last month, it said.
In another poll quoted in Russian media by the Fund of Public Opionion (FOM), 44 percent of people said that they had complete trust in Putin, compared to 46 percent in the previous month.
An even lower 39 percent said they had full confidence in Medvedev.
The publication of the poll figures comes as Putin gave one of his trademark strongman performances at his annual phone-in with Russians, seeking to minimise the importance of the demonstrations and mocking their participants.
He compared the white ribbon worn by the protestors to a condom -- saying he first though it was part of an anti-AIDS campaign -- and hinted he thought some were in the pay of a foreign state.
© 2011 AFP