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DATE=3/23/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA ELECT / PUTIN NUMBER=5-45989 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: As Russia's presidential campaign draws to a close, the question is not who will win, but whether Acting President Vladimir Putin will get the majority he needs to win in Sunday's first round of voting. V- O-A Moscow correspondent Peter Heinlein reports political analysts are already looking ahead to what kind of a president Mr. Putin will be. TEXT: A panel of United States and Russian political scientists gathered in central Moscow days before the election to analyze the presidential campaign and look to the future. The consensus is that Vladimir Putin has a better than even chance of winning without a runoff. If he fails, he will easily defeat Communist challenger Gennady Zyuganov in a second round. The virtual certainty of this outcome clearly disturbs many analysts. Stanford University professor Michael McFaul says this campaign has been, in his words, "depressingly the same" as those of the Soviet era. /// FIRST MCFAUL ACT /// The presidential election is being dominated by the State and the remnants of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In other words, all the organizational, financial, capital, whatever you want to call it, ten years later is being dominated by things that were left over from the old system. There are no new parties, no new candidates. /// END ACT /// Another panelist, Professor Timothy Colton of Harvard University, says he sees no chance of a return to the Soviet Union. But he worries that Russia under a President Putin could revert to a police state. /// COLTON ACT /// He (Putin) is in no position to re-institute the Soviet system, and I don't think we should worry about that. But he does talk about a strong state, and my indecision has to do with my inability to understand what he means by a strong state. If it's just a code word for the K-G-B taking over, that would be a disaster. I don't think that's quite what he means, but there's a police state side to this. /// END ACT /// The analysts in Moscow agree Mr. Putin's remarkable popularity was largely fueled by the success of the war in Chechnya. But his ratings have already peaked, and are declining as voters gradually learn more about him. Stanford University's Michael McFaul says Mr. Putin may disappoint voters if he is unable to continue working miracles. /// SECOND MCFAUL ACT /// He performed one miracle already, that is he defeated the Chechens. That was a year ago not considered possible. They were considered superhuman, national liberation leaders, (who) defeated the Russian army. I think the expectation is that he will do that again and again, and my prediction is that he will fail. /// END ACT /// Still, Russians seem to like what they see in Mr. Putin, though Michael McFaul and others believe most voters are not exactly sure why. Andrei Ryabov of the Moscow Carnegie Center said that may be a second miracle performed by Mr. Putin and the Kremlin inner circle. Eight months ago, few analysts would have believed President Boris Yeltsin could name his successor and have Russian voters accept the choice. But that is exactly what is happening. (Signed) NEB/PFH/GE/gm 23-Mar-2000 12:42 PM EDT (23-Mar-2000 1742 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .