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Putin bid said to have wide support

  |   Feb. 10, 2012 at 9:42 AM
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MOSCOW, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- More than half of Russian voters surveyed said they support Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in his bid to become the country's president.

The survey, conducted by state-run pollster VTsIOM, found 53.3 percent of voters said they support Putin, who would need at least 50 percent of the vote in the March 4 election to avoid a second-round runoff.

Support for Putin, who has served as prime minister the past four years, rose from 51.1 percent last week and 48 percent a month ago, the survey found.

But former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who called for Putin to step down during protests in December, said the prime minister could face a popular uprising against his rule, The Guardian of Britain reported.

"He has exhausted himself," Gorbachev said during a lecture at a Moscow university Thursday. "If he does not overcome himself, change the way things are -- and I think it will be difficult for him to do that -- then everything will end up on city squares [in protests]."

The VTsIOM survey found 10.3 percent, of voters said they supported Communist Party candidate Gennady Zyuganov, while 8.2 percent said they supported liberal Democratic leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky; 4.6 percent backed billionaire candidate Mikhail Prokhorov; and 3.3 percent were for A Just Russia's Sergei Mironov.

The number of voters who said they won't vote stood at 9.8 percent, the survey found.

VTsIOM said about 1,600 people in Russia were surveyed Feb. 4-5.

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