Russian party receives poll boost from Putin

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MOSCOW, Oct 10 (Reuters) Support among Russian voters for the United Russia party rose to a record high after President Vladimir Putin announced he would run on the party's ticket in this year's parliamentary election, an opinion poll showed.

The poll, released late yesterday, showed 54 per cent of voters questioned planned to vote for United Russia in the December 2 parliamentary election, up from 48 per cent in the previous poll at the end of September, pollster VTsIOM said.

It put the rise down to Putin's popularity rubbing off on the party. ''The decision by V Putin to become No 1 on the United Russia party list has this week given that party an additional 6 per cent of votes,'' the pollster said.

Putin is not expected to serve in parliament after the election.

He exploited a legal loophole which allows serving officials to run for parliament but not take up their seat.

Analysts saw his decision to run on the United Russia ticket as part of a strategy to retain influence after he steps down next year when his second and final term as president ends.

Heading the United Russia campaign will give him a power base in parliament, which has the power to approve the president's choice of prime minister. Putin has said he could become prime minister after stepping down.

United Russia already has a comfortable majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament. The chamber almost always rubber stamps Kremlin decisions.

VTsIOM said United Russia's rating was the highest since it started including the party in its opinion polls in 2002. Its closest rivals in the poll were the Communist Party with six per cent and the nationalist LDPR with five percent.

A party has to win over seven per cent of the vote to qualify for seats, but to ensure there are at least two parties in parliament, this requirement is waived if only one party gets over the threshold.

Reuters SZ GC1305

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