Putin ranks 9th among all presidents in former Soviet Union

Agency WPS
What the Papers Say. Part B (Russia)
March 15, 2004, Monday


SOURCE: Kommersant, March 15, 2004, p. 1

by Dmitri Kamyshev

Vladimir Putin won his second presidential election yesterday, with
around 69% of the vote, according to exit polls. His closest rival,
Communist Party (CPRF) candidate Nikolai Kharitonov, lagged by more
than 56%, with 12.6% of the vote. In this election, Putin wasn’t
competing with the other candidates as much as with his fellow
presidents in other countries of the former USSR. And in that
long-distance competition, Putin didn’t even manage to make the top

According to exit polls done by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM),
Vladimir Putin received 69% of the vote; Nikolai Kharitonov got
12.6%; Sergei Glaziev, Duma memember with the Motherland bloc
(Rodina), and Irina Khakamada, former co-leader of the Union of Right
Forces (URF), got 4.7% each; Oleg Malyshkin, Duma member for the
Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), got 2.3%; Federation
Council Speaker Sergei Mironov got 1%. And 5.7% of voters voted
against all candidates.

Almost 70% of the vote for candidate Putin – of course, this is much
less than the 80% which some pollsters predicted as recently as
mid-February (for example, Yuri Levada, head of the Levada Center
polling agency). However, in late February and early March, FOM polls
registered a substantial drop in Putin’s support rating. Given that
this happened soon after Mikhail Kasianov’s government was dismissed
and a new prime minister appointed, the popularity slide was due to
ordinary voters finding the president’s actions incomprehensible. All
the same, even this lower figure has enabled Putin to exceed his own
result from four years ago (he got 52.9% of the vote in 2000) and
even break a record which has stood for nearly 13 years: in June
1991, Boris Yeltsin won Russia’s first presidential election with
57.3% of the vote.

Yet a comparison of yesterday’s voting results with the outcomes of
presidential elections in other former Soviet countries shows that
President Putin still can’t compete with his counterparts there. In
this long-distance competition, Russia’s leader is only ranked ninth
– with the worst result for any leader who has won in the first round
of voting.

If the government had not been dismissed, and candidate Putin had
indeed received the promised 80% of the vote, he would have been in
the top five – overtaking President Nursultan Nazarbaev of
Kazakhstan. Still, he wouldn’t have crossed the 90% threshold – which
markes the start of truly universal love for their leaders among

There is a similar picture in the “winning margin over nearest rival”
category. In Russia, a 56% margin over the runner-up is an all-time
record: the previous record was set by Boris Yeltsin in 1991 (with a
40.5% margin over Nikolai Ryzhkov). But in the championship of the
former USSR, Vladimir Putin is only ranked eighth – and might have
been ninth if there had been any alternative choice in Turkmenistan’s
election of 1992. The Russian leader has only outscored President
Robert Kocharian of Armenia (21.26%) and President Leonid Kuchma of
Ukraine (14.25%).

Not counting the president of Turkmenistan, the lead in this category
is held by the presidents of Tajikistan and Georgia, Emomali
Rakhmonov (with a winning margin of 94.86%) and Mikhail Saakashvili
(94.42%). Then again, the Georgian leader has moral superiority:
while Rakhmonov faced only one other candidate, Saakashvili – like
Putin – had five rivals.

Actually, Vladimir Putin still has a chance of improving his result
in the battle for a more convincing margin over the runner-up. If his
result rises by even a couple of percentage points as voting results
are finalized, and if the number of votes for candidate Kharitonov
falls by a couple of points, Putin may yet overtake President
Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus (who has a 60% winning margin),
President Askar Akaev of Kyrgyzstan (60.58%), and perhaps even
President Ilkham Aliyev of Azerbaijan (62.87%). However, Putin
certainly won’t be able to catch up with President Nursultan
Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan (68.08%).

Translated by Alexander Dubovoi and Andrei Ryabochkin