by Zhang Dailei, Igor Serebryany
MOSCOW, March 2 (Xinhua) -- As the countdown to Russia's presidential election goes on, the political campaign of all five candidates has been in full swing and the race outcome becomes more and more predictable.
Latest polls have shown no one in Russia seriously doubts Vladimir Putin's victory, but the only question is whether he can win more than 50 percent of the votes and avoid a second round run-off.
For the other four candidates, political experts say, pursuing their different political goals is actually more important than the country's top post.
VICTORY IN THE BAG
According to a recent poll conduct by the state-run All-Russia Center for Public Opinion (VTsIOM), more than 59 percent of the people polled said they would vote for Putin.
VTsIOM director Valery Fedorov said Putin's approval rating, which dropped sharply immediately after the State Duma elections last December due to widespread allegations of ballot rigging, has returning to its usual level in recent weeks.
Another VTsIOM poll showed 48 percent of those surveyed said "managerial skills" was Putin's most conspicuous character trait, about 40 percent noted the 59-year-old candidate's "experience" and "intellect," while more than 30 percent liked Putin's "resolve, sense of purpose and seriousness."
Since 2000, Putin has enjoyed solid support from various social classes, as supporters credited him with bringing stability to the nation after the turbulent 1990s, reviving the economy and ensuring the welfare of state employees partially thanks to the windfall from oil and gas revenues.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who is Putin's closest competitor, would get about 10 percent of the votes, according to the VTsIOM poll.
Local analysts agree the other three contenders - Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) chief Vladimir Zhirinovsky, A Just Russia party leader Sergei Mironov and independent billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov - all represent narrow niches of voters and have no chance to win the presidency in foreseeable future.
Yuri Tavrovsky, a professor from Moscow Friendship University, told Xinhua all opposition forces understood the power of Putin.
"They participated in the presidential elections mainly for self-promotion and increasing their influence," Tavrovsky said, noting the opposition candidates had been campaigning not so much for the Kremlin job as for their parties.
Compared to the opposition campaigns, Putin's election program was the most realistic and comprehensive, said Sergei Markov, vice chief of the Moscow Plekhanov Economy Academy.
Putin has published his program piece by piece in newspapers serving every level of society. He made public his plans for the nation's development with a time span exceeding the six-year presidential term, Markov said.
"It is getting clearer day by day that Putin is to win outright. His campaign is calm and well thought out. He presents himself as a balanced, empathic politician with the vision not only until March 4 but for the decades ahead," Markov told Xinhua.
"The victory is in Putin's bag," the expert said.