Putin, Medvedev closest ever in popularity: Poll

Any political rivalry between the 2 could shake Russia`s political stability.

Moscow: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has narrowed the gap in approval ratings with his mentor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, widely seen as the country’s most powerful man, a poll published in Vedomosti newspaper showed on Friday.

Putin, who was president from 2000-08, has hinted he will either run for president in 2012 or support Medvedev, who he steered into the Kremlin two years ago.

Any political rivalry between the two could shake political stability cherished by both leaders and foreign investors alike.

Of the 1,600 people polled by the independent Levada Centre between October 22-25, 77 percent approved of Putin`s performance, while 76 percent had confidence in Medvedev.

Medvedev`s approval rating was 73 percent in September.

When asked who they would vote for in elections, 24 percent said they would vote for Putin, and 21 percent chose Medvedev.

Levada`s deputy, Alexei Grazhdankin, told Vedomosti that Medvedev`s jump in the ratings was due to him firing Moscow`s mayor Yuri Luzhkov last month.

However, analysts say the time Medvedev took to do so and a messy compromise over Luzhkov`s replacement made the Kremlin chief look less impressive.

When asked what kind of leader Russia needs, just over half of those polled said they favoured someone who had a "strong hand" -- in a sign the public would want Putin.

Thirty-nine percent said Russia`s leader should cooperate with all social and political powers, including the opposition.

Bureau Report

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