Yeltsin wins narrow victory in first-round election
He and Zyuganov to woo losers for runoff vote
June 17, 1996
Web posted at: 10:45 a.m EDT (1445 GMT)
MOSCOW (CNN) -- No clear winner emerged Monday in Russia's pivotal presidential election, setting the stage for a runoff between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Communist rival Gennady Zyuganov.
Because neither man got more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, the runoff will ultimately decide the direction of the nation -- more democratic reforms under Yeltsin or a return to its Communist past with Zyuganov.
In a television address Monday morning, Yeltsin urged voters to support him.
"Now, after the first round, the choice is easier -- either backwards to revolutions and shocks or forward to stability and well-being," Yeltsin said. "Today as never before, we must be united."
Zyuganov, pronouncing himself "completely happy" with the results of the balloting, said, "We got a third of the vote and we're going to get more than 50 percent after we get all those who are against the current Yeltsin course."
Zyuganov said the vote indicated to him that 65 percent of those who voted were against Yeltsin.
"He has no potential for getting any more" votes in the second round, he said. In a swipe at Yeltsin's campaign tactics, Zyuganov said if Yeltsin had spent more money paying salaries rather than staging free rock concerts, he probably would have done better in the polling.
Yeltsin slightly ahead
With nearly all of the ballots counted on Monday, Yeltsin held a slight edge over Zyuganov, 35 percent to 32 percent, according to the Central Election Commission.
A runoff date has not been set. Russia's election law calls for it to be held on a weekend within 15 days of final results. July 7 has been proposed, but several candidates reportedly are pushing for July 3.
Central Electoral Commission officials said Monday the runoff would occur between June 30 and July 7.
Both Yeltsin and Zyuganov were scrambling Monday to pick up support from the losers in the first round of presidential balloting, with voters wondering if gruff-voiced former Gen. Alexander Lebed will play the role of tsar-maker.
In a surprise showing, Lebed finished a strong third with about 14.7 percent of the vote.
He hailed the result as a personal victory and told Russian television that at some point Monday he will disclose whom he will support in the runoff. He stressed he will not tell his supporters to vote for any particular candidate.
Yeltsin 35.0% Zyuganov 32.0% Lebed 14.7% Yavlinsky 7.4% Zhirinovsky 5.8%
approx. 100% reporting
Yeltsin and Zyuganov reportedly are courting Lebed, who voiced a desire for a government job that would "enable me to organize the struggle with crime, to prevent extreme forces -- right or left, no difference -- from plunging the country into the depths of bloody chaos."
It is believed Lebed will support Yeltsin in return for the defense minister's job in a second Yeltsin administration, if Yeltsin wins the runoff vote.
Zyuganov said he would schedule meetings with all the losers. He said the Communist Party would meet Tuesday to discuss major posts in the new government, and said the office of prime minister had not been offered to anyone.
"As regards the prime minister, we haven't offered it to anybody yet," said Zyuganov, adding, "We will hold consultations with Lebed on all issues regarding round two."
The Interfax News Service quoted Yeltsin sources as saying Yeltsin would meet with Lebed and economist Grigory Yavlinsky.
Yavlinsky garnered 7.4 percent of the vote, and ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky had nearly 5.8 percent. Five other candidates, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, received less than 1 percent.
Yeltsin had portrayed himself as the candidate of stability in the last two weeks of the campaign, making promises to a number of groups as a way of easing economic reforms that have left many Russian citizens reeling.
Zyuganov, while trying to reassure the west, left no doubt that his goal was to re-establish the old Soviet-style safety net under a Communist regime with a new face and without old-style repression.
Lebed, a hero of the Afghan war and an opponent of the war in Chechnya, sapped votes from Zyuganov and Zhirinovsky, particularly in the Russian far east, which was split between the Communists and Zhirinovsky forces in last December's legislative elections.
Outside far eastern Russia, voting followed expected patterns. Yeltsin led in his home Ural mountain region and in the big cities, particularly Moscow. In the capital, Yeltsin took 62 percent of the vote compared to 15 percent for Zyuganov and 10 percent for Lebed.
Zyuganov did well in the rural farm country of southern Russia where the effects of Yeltsin's reforms have been most harsh. In Lenin's home town of Ulyanobsk, Zyuganov took 44 percent of the vote compared to 24 percent for Yeltsin.
Pivotal Elections: Russia
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