Monday, March 27, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Putin takes lead in poll

MOSCOW, March 26 (DPA) — Russia’s Acting Head of State Vladimir Putin took a clear lead in presidential elections as initial regional results of counting came through late today — but an anticipated first-round victory was in question.

As election officials announced the close of voting at polling stations in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, results of 7 per cent of counting put Mr Putin in the lead with 45.1 per cent of the vote.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov trailed behind with second place with 30.9 per cent, and Governor of the Kemerovo region Aman Tuleyev in third place with 8.9 per cent.

According to unofficial exit polls conducted nationwide among 80,000 persons leaving voting stations, Mr Putin was on course to just exceed the 50 per cent of votes needed for a straight win.

The polls were organised by the VVP group of experts consisting of members of the “public opinion” polling organisation and the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, which has links with the government.

First results varied considerably by region, with support for Mr Putin lying at 40 per cent in the far eastern Primorye region, rising to 62 per cent in the Chukotsk region, also in the far East.

‘’I am confident the elections will go to a second round,’’ Mr Zyuganov said on Russian television after the first results were announced.

Two hours before voting ended in Kaliningrad, Central Election Commission Head Alexander Veshnyakov declared the elections valid as more than half of Russia’s 108 million voters had cast their ballots.

Russian troops and civilians in Chechnya also participated in the voting, although fresh outbreaks of fighting overshadowed the event. Federal forces were deployed against rebels that reportedly seized areas along the eastern border with Dagestan.

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