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Russians to Vote in Presidential Election Sunday - 2004-03-13


Russian voters are set to decide who will run their country for the next four years. Unless there is a major upset, President Vladimir Putin is expected to win re-election.

When polling booths open across Russia's 11 time zones, most of the country's 100 million registered voters have said they will support Mr. Putin. All that is in doubt is whether enough voters turn out to make the election valid.

With an approval rating of at least 70 percent, Mr. Putin has no reason to fear the challenges of his five opponents in Sunday's vote.

One of them, Sergei Mironov, even told a Russian news agency that he wants Vladimir Putin to be the next Russian president.

Irina Khakamada, the only vocally critical candidate of Mr. Putin, admits she has no chance of winning. She says she is in the race in order to make President Putin listen to the people.

However, most Russians seem to believe Vladimir Putin does listen to them. He is the strong leader they feel Russia needs.

During Mr. Putin's first term, the standard of living in Russia improved considerably, and he is credited with making the country and its economy much more stable.

The outcome of the election is so predictable that election officials are worried that Russians simply won't bother to vote. One official explained the lack of suspense might well turn into a lack of votes.

If the turnout is less than 50 percent, the election will be declared invalid, and will have to be re-scheduled.

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