Campaign tug-of-war begins for second Russian election

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Yeltsin, Zyuganov seek supporters

June 17, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- With no clear winner emerging from Russia's pivotal presidential election, the two top candidates -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Communist rival Gennady Zyuganov -- focused their attention on deal-making Monday.

Both men began courting retired Gen. Alexander Lebed, hoping to gain his support before a crucial runoff. Lebed, an Afghan war hero, finished a surprising third in the election with 15 percent of the vote. He is now seen as a key power broker for the second election.

Yeltsin was the first to meet with Lebed. The two discussed "possible concerted action in the second round," according to press secretary Sergei Medvedev.

Various political analysts said Yeltsin will offer Lebed the defense minister post or head of Russia's security council in a bid for his support. They said Yeltsin may even create a position to woo the retired general to his side.


Yeltsin did not officially comment on the reports. He also planned to meet with other losing candidates. Sergei Filatov, a Yeltsin aide, said jobs would not be discussed at any of the meetings.

Meanwhile, Zyuganov planned to meet with Lebed to discuss possible government positions, if he becomes Russia's next president. The Zyuganov camp hinted that Lebed also might be offered the prime minister slot by the Communists, if he backed them.

Lebed made no public comment on the matter. But he has expressed 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."

Runoff required

Final preliminary vote totals show Yeltsin with 35 percent compared to Zyuganov's 32 percent. Lebed finished third, followed by economist Grigory Yavlinsky with 7.4 percent and ultra-nationalists Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 5.8 percent. The remaining five candidates drew less than 1 percent each.

Because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between Yeltsin and Zyuganov will take place in the next two weeks.

The Central Electoral Commission said those results were based on 99 percent of the votes cast in 88 of 89 voting districts.

The commission was still waiting for returns from the 89th district, Chechnya. Preliminary results from the district indicate the region is split between Yeltsin and Zyuganov.

Clinton praises election

President Clinton said he "applauds" the presidential election, which he said "as far as we can tell had a substantially high turnout (and) was a free and fairly conducted one".

He said the United States looks forward to the runoff between Yeltsin and Zyuganov, and reaffirms its support for democracy and market reforms.

The "Russian people are to be complimented, and the Russian leadership is to be complimented, for supporting a constitution and elective process," Clinton said.

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