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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

First Round Knockout Not Possible, Polls Say

With four days remaining before Russia's presidential election, opinion pollsters said Wednesday that the two top candidates were closer than their polls might indicate, and an easy June 16 victory for either President Boris Yeltsin or Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov was out of the question.

"The possibility that either of these two candidates could achieve a victory in the first round can be absolutely ruled out. We should speak not of victory, but of an advantage," said Boris Grushin, director of the Vox Populi polling service.

"The positions of the main contenders are now not so far apart," said Yury Levada, director of the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, or VTsIOM. "The gap of several percentage points [between Yeltsin and Zyuganov] found in most polls is not always reliable ... and could disappear altogether," he said.

Nugzar Betaneli, director of the Institute of Sociology of Parliamentarianism, said, according to his latest poll, the last to be released before a moratorium on opinion surveys comes into effect at 3 p.m. Thursday, 40 percent of the electorate expressed its support of Yeltsin against 31 percent for Zyuganov.

Levada said VTsIOM's latest poll had yielded similar numbers: 35 to 36 percent of the voters backing Yeltsin against 29 to 33 percent for Zyuganov. The largest gap between Yeltsin and Zyuganov was reported by The Moscow Times/CNN poll, conducted by the Institute for Comparative Social Research, which gave Yeltsin 34.5 percent of the vote to Zyuganov's 15.9 percent.

Of the remaining candidates, only three would collect a significant share of the votes Sunday, the pollsters said: Alexander Lebed, Grigory Yavlinsky and Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Their backing in the second round could make or break either Yeltsin or Zyuganov.

In Betaneli's latest poll, Lebed received 9 percent of the vote, Yavlinsky 11 percent and Zhirinovsky 5 percent. VTsIOM showed Lebed with 10 percent, Yavlinsky with 7 percent and Zhirinovsky with 6 to 7 percent. According to The Moscow Times/CNN poll, Lebed would receive 7.1 percent of the vote, Yavlinsky 6.7 percent and Zhirinovsky 6.5 percent.

The pollsters agreed Zhirinovsky would have the greatest influence on his voters' choice at the second round, expected July 7.

Lebed and Yavlinsky have been circumspect about their second-round allegiances, but it is assumed Lebed would back Zyuganov, while Yavlinsky would throw his weight behind Yeltsin.