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Russia: Matviyenko Leading Polls For St. Petersburg Governorship

St. Petersburg, 21 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Exit polls in St. Petersburg tonight suggest that Valentina Matviyenko is close to winning an outright victory in the first round vote for the governorship of the city. The exit polls indicate that Matviyenko -- who has received great support from President Vladimir Putin -- won about 50.3 percent of today's ballots. To win outright, she needs support from more than half of those who voted.

However, organizers of the exit polls say their tally is so close to the 50 percent barrier that their results should be treated with caution. Preliminary official results are expected later tonight.

A run-off vote will be conducted between the top two finishers if none of today's nine candidates wins more than 50 percent.

Election officials in St. Petersburg earlier today declared the vote valid after more than 20 percent of the city's 3.7 million eligible voters participated.