Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, plucked from obscurity in September, has emerged as favorite to succeed President Vladimir Putin when he steps down next year, according to a poll published yesterday.
The survey showed rising inflation was the biggest concern of Russian voters ahead of the December 2 parliamentary election.
Putin, 55, has vowed to leave office in 2008 after two consecutive four-year terms as president. But he has hinted he will retain influence and has kept everyone guessing about who he could support as Russia's next president.
A poll by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) for Moscow investment bank Renaissance Capital, showed Russians believed Putin would want Zubkov to succeed him.
Renaissance, in a report on the poll, said: "The most frequently mentioned name in the category of Putin's choice as the next president is now Zubkov."
The poll showed 72 percent of people thought Putin had made a decision on who to support and 26 percent believed it was Zubkov.
First Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, once considered front runners in the race for the Kremlin, have slipped, the poll showed.
Just 17 percent of people believed Ivanov was Putin's choice and 16 percent Medvedev. But 35 percent said they did not know.
Putin, who has made a tradition of plucking senior officials from obscurity, appointed Zubkov as prime minister on September 14.
The former head of an anti-money laundering unit, said to be a mentor to the president, he has swiftly made his name as a tough-talking manager who has been given generous airtime on state television, a key indicator of Kremlin approval.
The majority of respondents, 53 percent, said they would vote for Putin if he ran in the presidential election, a move that would contravene the constitution.
Most respondents, 83 percent, said Putin would retain an important role after the 2008 elections.
Source: China Daily/Agencies