As the Russian elections draw closer, a state pollster predicted on Monday that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will win the first round of elections for president with more than half the vote, avoiding a runoff election that would erode his authority, according to Reuters.
Russia’s Public Opinion Research Center said Putin is likely to win 58.6 percent of the vote, far ahead of his rivals. The poll of 1,600 people also predicts that Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov will come in second with 14.8 percent of the vote, said Reuters.
Meanwhile, the current president, Dmitry Medvedev, held a meeting with organizers of opposition rallies on Monday, to discuss easing rules on registering political parties, said the BBC. Among the opposition were representatives from parties that have been denied registration, including those who have staged huge demonstrations in Moscow in the last few months.
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A leading figure in the opposition movement, Sergei Udaltsov, said on his twitter feed that the meeting would focus on political reform and talks about fair elections, according to the BBC.
The Associated Press reported that hundreds of cars joined the opposition demonstrations yesterday, and a similar protest on Saturday drew around 2,000 cars. The anti-Putin protests have been countered by pro-Putin protests, and tens of thousands are expected to hold a pro-Putin rally in Moscow on Thursday.
In an article published on Monday in the newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Putin said Russia needs to modernize its military arsenals. According to Bloomberg, Putin announced plans for the government to spend about $770 billion over the next decade in purchases of ballistic missiles, combat aircrafts, submarines and armored vehicles, to upgrade its military.
Putin said, “We shouldn’t tempt anyone with our weakness.”
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Here is AP video of an anti-Putin protest in Moscow on Saturday by hundreds of motorists who descorated their vehicles in white or waved white flags to demand that the premier allow free elections. This was followed by pro-Putin rally in the evening.