Poll predicts first-round Putin victory

Vladimir Putin will be elected President in the first round of next month's election with more than half the vote, avoiding a run-off that would dent his authority, a state pollster predicted yesterday.

Prime Minister Putin hopes to convincingly win the election on 4 March to take the sting out of a growing urban protest movement which casts him as an authoritarian leader who rules through a corrupt and tightly controlled political system.

Mr Putin is likely to win 58.6 per cent of the vote, said the Public Opinion Research Centre, which has a history of accurately predicting the results of Russian elections.