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Russian Exit Polls Show Medvedev with Commanding Lead

  • VOA News

Exit polls in Russia show Dmitri Medvedev winning about 65 percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential election.

It was widely predicted that Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor, would easily win the election. Medvedev's closest challenger, Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov was running a distant second with just under 17 percent.

Mr. Putin is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term. But Medvedev has promised to name the outgoing president prime minister, in a deal that ensures Mr. Putin will retain broad powers and influence after his term expires in May.

Earlier today, Russia's independent voter rights group Golos told VOA it has heard from teachers, factory workers and university professors who say they were forced to cast ballots.

A Golos spokesman Grigori Melkoniants said pressure was applied to boost turnout to give the appearance of popular support for the polls.

Europe's largest poll monitoring organization announced last month it would boycott the vote because of Russian restrictions.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe decided not to deploy monitors after Moscow imposed restrictions on the role of observers. The organization took similar action late last year, when it boycotted parliamentary polls after elections officials cut the size of the OSCE monitoring mission from 400 workers to 70.

Ahead of today's balloting, former opposition candidate and chess champion Garry Kasparov called the election a farce. Kasparov and former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov were both disqualified from the ballot on technicalities. Kasparov Saturday delivered a petition denouncing the vote to Russia's electoral commission.

None of Medvedev's opponents who made the ballot - - Communist leader Zyuganov, ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and little known Andrei Bogdanov -- were seen as presenting a serious challenge to the Medvedev candidacy.

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