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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Runoff Predicted in Krasnoyarsk Poll

Krasnoyarsk votes for a governor Sunday in a tight race that observers predict will go into a runoff.

The winner will take over an office left vacant when Governor Alexander Lebed died in a helicopter crash in April.

"It's a very interesting campaign and the most unpredictable one we have ever had," said Vyacheslav Nikonov, director of the Politika think tank. "There are three very strong candidates, each with his own resources, and a confrontation between two powerful oligarch groups. Three super-professional PR teams are working on the campaign, and the Kremlin is keeping its mouth shut."

Alexander Uss, the speaker of the Krasnoyarsk legislative assembly, is in the lead with 24 percent of the vote, according to the most recent opinion poll, conducted by Comcon. Taimyr Governor and former Norilsk Nickel head Alexander Khloponin are on 19 percent, while Krasnoyarsk Mayor Pyotr Pimashkov has 14 percent. In total, 15 candidates are in the running.

Sergei Komaritsin, a sociologist and editor in chief of the Vecherny Krasnoyarsk newspaper, cast doubt on the opinion poll Thursday. He said the difference between the three leading candidates was negligible and a runoff was likely.

"The main question concerns 12 to 15 percent of the voters who have not yet decided on a candidate," he said by telephone from Krasnoyarsk.

Nikonov agreed, saying the differences between the candidates fall within the opinion poll's margin of error.

Late last month, prominent Krasnoyarsk businessman Anatoly Bykov threw his support behind Uss, who is seen as Russian Aluminum's candidate. Bykov had been a bitter foe of the aluminum giant.

Khloponin is thought to be backed by Interros, which controls the region's biggest plant, Norilsk Nickel. Pimashkov is the popular mayor of the regional capital.

Nikonov said a fourth candidate, Communist State Duma Deputy Sergei Glazyev, also had a chance of getting into a runoff.

Worries surfaced in recent days that Uss and Pimashkov might be removed from the ballot over lawsuits filed by other candidates. But some of the cases were dismissed Thursday and others were postponed until after the vote.

Komaritsin said the Kremlin might intervene in the second round, but because of Bykov's vocal support for Uss, it was unlikely to back him.

Lebed's younger brother, Alexei, the governor of the neighboring Khakassia region, pulled out of the race in early August, saying the campaign was dirty and he wanted no part in it. Observers said he probably withdrew his candidacy because he realized that he had little chance of winning.