MOSCOW (Reuters) - Most Russians would not think worse of President Vladimir Putin if he breached the constitution and ran for a third term in March presidential elections, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday.
Putin, whose approval ratings top 70 percent, has promised to respect the constitution, which bans him running for a third consecutive four-year term. His popularity has prompted a wave of calls by political allies for him to change his mind.
A poll by the independent Levada Centre showed 55 percent would not change their view of Putin if he decided to run again, while another 22 percent said it would improve their opinion.
Putin has already said he wants to keep political influence after leaving the Kremlin but he has not explained how.
Demands to formalise Putin’s future role have topped the agenda of his United Russia party, which won a landslide victory in a parliamentary election last Sunday.
“Putin is our national leader and he will remain the national leader whatever job he takes after the presidential election,” United Russia chief Boris Gryzlov has said.
Kremlin officials say Sunday’s election result, with a combined 72 percent of votes won by pro-Kremlin parties, is a demonstration of public support for Putin to maintain power. But it remains unclear what the role of “national leader” might be.
When asked how they would view Putin becoming a “national leader”, only 17 percent said they fully supported the idea. Another 27 percent said they would back it if the new title were approved through a referendum or constitutional changes.
Thirty percent of respondents opposed the idea.
The most radical Putin supporters have suggested a post of national leader with sweeping powers should be instituted at a specially convened Congress, which they compare with the one that installed the Romanov family as Russian tsars in 1613.
State-owned pollster VTsIOM said its own poll on the issue showed 52 percent of respondents found it difficult to say what “national leader” would mean in practice. Only 2 percent of them said a national leader “should be like Putin”.
The Levada Centre conducted its poll on November 23-27 among 1,600 respondents in 46 Russian regions. The margin of error was 3 percent. VTsIOM’s poll was conducted on November 9-10.
Writing by Oleg Shchedrov; Editing by Michael Winfrey