October 22, 2020

Putin says he may face runoff in Russia’s election

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

MOSCOW (AP) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he could face a runoff in Russia’s presidential vote in March — his first acknowledgment that he may fail to muster enough support for an outright victory.

Putin’s statement Wednesday signaled that he might be willing to accept a less dominating father-of-the nation image if he fails to win more than 50 percent in the first round on March 4, rather than risk igniting more public outrage through blatant vote rigging.

Evidence of fraud in favor of Putin’s party in December’s parliamentary election triggered the largest protests since the Soviet collapse two decades ago.

Putin said at a meeting with election monitors that “there is nothing horrible” about a runoff and he’s ready for one, according to Russian news reports.

But he also warned of the dangers of a second round, saying it would lead to a “certain destabilization of the political situation.” The need for stability in Russia has been the mantra of Putin’s campaign.

Putin won his previous two presidential terms in 2000 and 2004 in the first round. After moving into the prime minister’s job due to term limits, he has remained Russia’s top political figure, but has seen his support dwindle amid growing public frustration with his rigid controls over the political scene, rampant corruption and rising social inequality.

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