Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bookies back Ivanov to be next Russian president

Bookies back Ivanov to be next Russian president
By Christian Lowe
Sun Aug 19, 2007

Opinion polls make Sergei Ivanov favorite to be Russia's next president and now bookmakers -- renowned for being canny judges of form -- are backing him for the Kremlin top job too.

Internet gaming operator Unibet has made First Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov its favorite, with odds of 2.2 to one, in the race to win the 2008 presidential election and replace outgoing President Vladimir Putin.

Ivanov's fellow First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is his nearest rival with odds of 3.75 to one, according to the Maltese-registered bookmaker. The third favorite, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, trails well behind on ten to one.

Some academics say betting on elections is sometimes better at forecasting the result than opinion polls.

The reason researchers cite is that someone placing a bet has money riding on the result and so will tend to make a more sober choice than a respondent in an opinion poll.

The latest poll by Russia's Levada Centre gave 31 percent support to Ivanov, a 54-year-old who like his boss Putin is a former Soviet spy from St Petersburg. The same poll put Medvedev on 27 percent.

Ireland-based spreadbetting Internet site Intrade also has Ivanov as its clear favorite.

It runs a virtual stock exchange where people can trade in possible outcomes of the Russian election. An Ivanov win is the most valuable stock, priced at 41 out of a possible 100.

Medvedev trades at 17. Putin is third favorite on 15 -- even though he is barred by the constitution from seeking a new term and has said he will step down next year.

Ivanov denies he has any intention of running for president, as do all the pro-Kremlin figures linked with the race. But that has not stopped feverish speculation about who will run and whom Putin will endorse to replace him.

Many analysts discount the strong showing by Ivanov and Medvedev in the opinion polls. They predict that if the popular Putin throws his weight behind a third candidate, that person will quickly climb to the top of the polls.

Only one Russian bookmaker is taking bets on the vote, the Noviye Izvestia newspaper reported last week.

It said the bookmaker was not offering odds on would-be candidates but was instead taking bets on weekly fluctuations in runners' opinion poll ratings.

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