Book Chapter

Russian Election Watch, May 15, 1996

May 15, 1996, No. 21
To help track significant developments affecting Russian elections, the Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project offers a simplified summary of recent political events, including "betting charts." Individual''s estimates of the likelihood of Russian elections and their results are presented as numerical estimated probabilities not because anyone entertains illusions about precision, but to make the estimators state their bets as clearly as possible.
I. Estimated Probabilities of Presidential Election in June

A. Betting Charts:



Change From Last Week

Graham Allison (SDI Director)


Sergei Grigoriev (SDI Fellow)
Matthew Lantz (SDI Researcher)
. Events Affecting the Election in June: CANDIDATES AS THEY APPEAR ON THE BALLOT:
The candidates will appear in Russian alphabetical order on the ballot:

I. Vladimir Bryntsalov: Duma Deputy, People''s Power Faction
II. Yuri Vlazov : World champion weight-lifter, nationalist
III. Mikhail Gorbachev : Civic Forum
IV. Boris Yeltsin : Incumbent
V. Vladimir Zhirinovsky : Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR)
VI. Gennady Zyuganov : Communist Party (CP-RF)
VII. Alexander Lebed : Democratic Party of Russia/KRO
VIII. Aman Tuliev : Chairman of Kemerovo Oblast legislature, CP-RF
IX. Martin Shakkum : "Reform" think tank director
X. Svyatoslav Fedorov : Workers'' Self Government Party
XI. Grigory Yavlinsky : Yabloko Bloc
The Russian Supreme Court upheld the CEC decision to deny registration to the following candidates: Vladimir Podoprigora, Galina Starovoitova, and Lev Ubozhko. Moscow businessman Vyacheslav Ushakov is still awaiting the Supreme Court''s verdict. (OMRI suppl. 5/10) TV AIRTIME ALLOCATED; ZYUGANOV BIG WINNER: Between May 14 and June 4, each candidate will receive two 10-minute slots on Russian Public TV (ORT-Channel 1) and two 10-minute slots on Russian TV (RTR-Channel 2). One slot on each station will be in the morning and one will be in the evening. From June 5 to June 14, each candidate will receive two 5-minute slots on each station under the same arrangement. Additionally, St. Petersburg''s Channel 5 will give each candidate one thirty minute slot A lottery determined which candidate would appear in each slot:

  • Yeltsin: Last appearance: ORT - evening of June 11
    Zhirinovsky: Last appearance: ORT - evening of June 13
    Yavlinsky: Last appearances: ORT - morning of June 11; RTR - evening of June 13
    Zyuganov: Last appearances: ORT - morning of June 13, evening of June 14; RTR - morning of June 13; St. Petersburg Channel 5 - evening of June 14.

(OMRI suppl. 5/10)

CEC REPORTS CANDIDATES'' FINANCES: ZYUGANOV has raised more campaign funds than any other candidate. As of last week, he had raised Rb 1.48 billion ($298,000) from individuals and companies. YELTSIN, by comparison, has raised Rb 1.3 billion ($262,000). (FT 5/13)
WESTERN ELECTION OBSERVERS: At the invitation of the CEC, the OSCE will send over 500 short-term and 12 long-term observers to the Russian election. (Russia has over 90,000 polling sites, so the OSCE holds no illusions of monitoring more than a representative sample.) Observers will be stationed in Novosibirsk, Khabarovsk, Kazan, St. Petersburg, Stavropol, and Irkutsk. The OSCE would not announce which polling sites the observers would attend or what their schedules would be. In a change from December, the observers will be present at the vote counting. (Moscow Tribune 5/8) WESTERN EDITORIALS ON THE CAMPAIGN: The New York Times, 5/9: "But rather than debating the differences reasonably, and stressing the importance of national unity and the rule of law whatever the election result, the presidential candidates are aggravating the divisions. The have carelessly created a climate where violence may follow disappointment in natural progression." The Washington Post, 5/8: "A free election, no matter who wins, is far preferable to no election at all." The Boston Globe, 5/9: " At this stage there is little Washington can do but commend democratic practice and pray for the best."

  • II. If June Presidential Election, Who Wins?
    A. Individuals'' Estimates % chance of winning the presidency

Graham Allison

Matthew Lantz

Sergei Grigoriev

Moscow Futures

Traders'' Bets (April 30, 1996)

Yeltsin 33%

Zyuganov 46%

Yeltsin 50%

Zyuganov 28.51%

Zyuganov 25%
Zyuganov 50%
Yeltsin 27.53%
Yavlinsky 20%
Yavlinsky 5%
Zhirinovsky 11%
Zhirinovsky 10%
Chernomyrdin 4%
Yavlinsky 10%
Lebed 5%
Zhirinovsky 3%
Lebed 5.55%
Lebed 1%
Fedorov 4.8%
Gorbachev 2.4%
1 Betting began on the Moscow Stock Exchange on 4/22. Speculators can purchase futures contracts indicating the % of vote they expect a candidate to receive in the first round. Izvestiya 5/5)??
B. Recent Events Involving Presidential Candidates:
BORIS YELTSIN: (For Yeltsin/Yavlinsky discussions, see Yavlinsky section below)
Victory Day Celebration: From atop Lenin''s tomb, President Yeltsin addressed the crowds in Red Square celebrating the 51st anniversary of the end of World War II. Yeltsin praised the Russian people, Russian soldiers, and unlike his Communist rival speaking across town, the Allies. Yeltsin also called attention the recently reinstated red flag labeling it "a living link between the generations." He then became the first Russian leader in 51 years to leave Moscow during the Victory Day celebration. After meeting briefly with veterans in Gorky Park, Yeltsin flew to Volgograd (Stalingrad), site of some of the fiercest fighting during the war. Yeltsin explained, although the region has consistently voted Communist in recent elections, he felt morally obligated to visit a site of such importance. According to the government''s ITAR-TASS press agency, crowds greeted Yeltsin carrying signs saying "We love you" and "Yeltsin is a democrat." (FT, NYT, OMRI 5/10)
Yeltsin Campaign is Early Out of Starting Gate: A week before the official media campaign begins, the Yeltsin campaign began broadcasting a set of "public service announcements" that bear a close resemblance to campaign commercials. During the Victory Day holiday, the airwaves were flooded with World War II veterans recalling their proud past and hinting at an ominous future. "I just want my children and grandchildren to finally savor the fruits of the victory we fought for and that they did not let enjoy," said a veteran in one spot. (NYT 5/13)
Assessing the Yeltsin Campaign: The Yeltsin campaign has hired focus-group specialists, direct mail experts, pollsters, political consultants, and campaign advertisers. The array of political professionals has made the campaign more technical than the Communists'' grass-roots efforts and has balkanized the Yeltsin effort into various mistrustful factions. Some of these specialists were not hired for their skill, but through their connections.
The campaign is focused on "re-humanizing the President" by making him appear less as a Tsar and more as an average Russian citizen. Yeltsin meets people on the streets at campaign rallies, and pledges assistance to those hurt in the reforms. Additionally, NAINA YELTSIN now regularly visits hospitals and maternity centers and discusses the President''s home life. Additionally, In another move to gain popular support, Yeltsin has promised to go to Chechnya later this month to restart the peace process. The entire fractious staff agrees Yeltsin must prove to the voters that whatever his failings, he can provide stability." (NYT 5/13)
Yeltsin Refuses to Debate Zyuganov: The Russian President brushed aside an invitation to debate from ZYUGANOV saying, "I was a Communist for 30 years and had so much of that demagoguery that today, with my democratic views, I cannot bear this demagoguery any more...For this reason, I don''t need the debate with Zyuganov. I stick to my beliefs, while he wants to drag the country backward." He went on to say, he did not have time to debate all of the ten candidates, and it would not be fair to debate just one. (Washington Post 5/12, OMRI 5/13)
Yeltsin''s Health: Yeltsin''s health continues to be a question in the campaign. Recently the President has campaigned vigorously and shown little sign of health problems. He has 16 campaign trips planned this month, traveled to Norway and China last month, and by his own account works from 5:00 am until late at night. However, Yeltsin is seven years beyond the average Russian male mortality age and has had two heart "ailments" in the last year. Speaking for the first time about his health last week, Yeltsin admitted "large emotional and physical stresses brought me to the hospital last year, but the doctors put me right." Yeltsin pointed out that all of his grandfathers and great-grandfathers had lived to beyond the age of 90. Still, doctors speculate that Yeltsin''s health remains questionable. (NYT, 5/10) British Spy Scandal: In a throwback to the Cold War era, 9 British diplomats were accused by the Federal Security Service of spying. As preparations for their expulsions were made, the Foreign Ministry intervened to calm what was becoming a major diplomatic row. Immediately rumors filled Moscow concerning the origin of the case. Some suspected that presidential bodyguard ALEXANDER KORZHAKOV had organized the scandal in retaliation for being quoted in the British newspaper The Observer as saying he sought to postpone the elections. Korzhakov was later reprimanded by the President. Others believed Yeltsin orchestrated the spy scandal himself to demonstrate to nationalist voters that he is not an agent of Western leaders. The President''s foreign policy aide, DMITRI RYURIKOV called this theory "ridiculous." Why would Yeltsin benefit from an international scandal? The incident demonstrated the tension between the Security Service and the Foreign Ministry. (FT 5/8, Boston Globe 5/9, OMRI 5/10) Chubais on the Challenges to the Yeltsin Campaign: Former First Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy and now campaign advisor ANATOLY CHUBAIS confirmed beliefs that Yeltsin''s polls had leveled off in the last week. "Now the hard part begins ( when we have to work on the other side''s territory." To break free, Chubais stated, the campaign would again have to talk of ending the war in Chechnya and unifying with GRIGORY YAVLINSKY. "It''s not only important who wins the first round, but how big the gap is between the No. 1 and No. 2," Chubais reported. (Moscow Tribune, Moscow Times 5/8, Argumenty i Fakty 5/7).
Yours Truly, Boris: In an American-style twist to the campaign, Yeltsin''s staff sent out 3 million personal letters to women veterans across the country thanking them for their valor and begging for forgiveness for economic hardships and the government''s past neglects. Each letter used first names and patronymics and was signed by an autopen (a machine that holds a pen and writes the sender''s signature). "I cried when I got it," said Marina Zozlovskaya. The 72 year old pensioner in Penza stated, "I was stunned to get such a lovely, warm letter from the President himself." (NYT 5/10)
Yeltsin Should Aim for a Close Second on June 16: BORIS MAKARENKO, deputy director of the Center for Political Technology, argues that Yeltsin''s campaign goal should be to come within five points of GENNADY ZYUGANOV in the first round voting. This would mobilize his voters and attract crossover votes from other candidates. Citing studies of his center, Makarenko believes Yeltsin has a greater chance to attract crossover votes than Zyuganov. Yavlinsky, Fedorov, and even Lebed supporters are likely to vote for Yeltsin in the second round. Zyuganov, on the other hand, will achieve his maximum vote total in the first round, and will only attract a few Zhirinovsky supporters to vote for him in the second round. Yeltsin should not hope to win or tie in the first round because this could rally Communist supporters to vote in the second round, as well as demobilize some of his crossover vote. Likewise, his numbers must remain close to Zyuganov to keep his vote mobilized. (Moscow Tribune 5/8) How to Defeat Zyuganov: MARK URNOV , recent head of the presidential staff''s Analytical Administration, declared in a forum in Hungary that the strongest weapon in the Yeltsin campaign is the polarization of Russian society. Polls show that 45% of Russians are against Communism and that 25% do not want ZYUGANOV to win under any circumstances. Urnov argues this plays into the President''s hands and that instead of labeling Zyuganov as bad, the campaign should stress Zyuganov is a Communist. The reflex reaction from the populace will help Yeltsin. (Sevodnya 5/5) Fight on Boris! and Other Slogans: The All-Russian Movement of Public Support of the President (ODOP) has urged its regional groups to organize rallies during the upcoming month prior to the elections. The Moscow branch will conduct a "picket line" on Pushkinskaya Polshchad every weekday between 5:00 and 9:00 pm. The participants will hold the Russian tri-color and pictures of Yeltsin chanting slogans such as: "Yeltsin is Our President!" "Yeltsin, Reforms, Peace!" "Fight On, Boris!" "People and God Will Help!" and finally, "A Coupon for Meat, A Coupon for Vodka, A Coupon for Sugar. Did You Forget? Zyuganov Will Send A Reminder!" ODOP has discouraged negative posters of other candidates. (Nezavisimaya Gazeta 5/7) GENNADY ZYUGANOV (CP-RF): Victory Day Rally: Zyuganov addressed between 30,000 and 50,000 supporters under a portrait of Stalin in a military uniform at a Victory Day celebration in front of the old KGB building. As the crowd chanted, "Victory to Zyuganov!" the Communist leader insisted that the Great Patriotic War was won by the Red army and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He then went on to say, "The Communists are facing a difficult victory, even more difficult than the 1945 victory over the Nazis. Then, the nation was united; society was not divided into the poor and the rich, into new Russians and old Russians." (FT, NYT, OMRI 5/10)
Zyuganov in Germany: Speaking to politicians and entrepreneurs in Germany, Zyuganov stated if he won the presidency, Russian foreign policy would be more deliberate and open for cooperation with ( among others ( international finance organizations. But Russian foreign policy under Zyuganov would be aimed at promoting Russian interests. He promised to create a favorable climate and financial guarantees for Western investors. He also repeatedly underscored that Germany is "one of the leading countries in the world and one of the most important partners as far as Russia is concerned." (Sevodnya 5/8)
On the Stump in St. Petersburg: Fatherland was the key theme is Zyuganov''s speech at a "Congress of City Heroes" on April 27. "Fatherland is the people, the state, the country...Fatherland is language, culture, and distinctiveness....Fatherland is the bond between generations." In the speech Zyuganov stated people armed with lies, slander, and fraud promised to lead Russia to civilization, but instead destroyed the most important Russian state institutions. "We children turned out to be too trusting." Zyuganov concluded by urging unity to restore the long-suffering Fatherland. The speech earned a standing ovation. (OMRI suppl. 5/10)
Ten Youth Groups Abandon Zyuganov: Some of the groups claimed they never consciously joined Zyuganov''s electoral coalition. Others said their signatures had been forged. MARAT GELMAN, leader of an artists'' circle, asserted that although Zyuganov claims to have 191 groups in his coalition, as many as 63 are merely private individuals or organizations of one. (Sevodnya 5/5, OMRI suppl. 5/10)
Which Flag?: Zyuganov stated at his Victory Day rally that if elected, he would call for a referendum on replacing the Russian tri-color with the Soviet flag. He argued the Russia flag was used by Russian collaborators who fought along side Germans against the Red army in World War II. (OMRI 5/10)
Communists Plan to File Case Against Candidate Yeltsin: MIKHAIL SURKOV, a member of the Presidium of the Communist Party, announced that the party was planning to file a court case against YELTSIN for allegedly unlawful attempts to rally the military behind him before the election. Surkov declared Yeltsin''s visit to a military academy in Yaroslov intentionally violated the defense law which prohibits campaigning within military units. The Communists will seek to have Yeltsin banned from visiting military units and even try to disqualify him from the race entirely. (Moscow Tribune. 5/8)
Grachev Denies Contacts with Zyuganov Defense Minister PAVEL GRACHEV denied through his personal aide allegations appearing in Moskovskiy Komsomolets claiming that he had spoken with Zyuganov about a mutually beneficial arrangement. According to the article, Zyuganov sought to convince Grachev not to use force to back the President if Yeltsin decided to nullify the results of the election. In exchange for his actions, Zyuganov would keep Grachev in his cabinet as Defense Minister. The aide denied Grachev was holding talks with Zyuganov or any other presidential challenger. (Moscow Tribune 5/7)
Why Nationalists Should Support Zyuganov: The extreme right-wing Russkie Vedomosti (No. 25) outlined 5 reasons nationalists should support Zyuganov: (1) only Zyuganov and Yeltsin have any chance of being elected, so voters should not waste their votes on others and should vote for the lesser of the two evils; (2) the CP-RF is made up of ethnic Russians, unlike the CP-SU, which the paper claims was dominated by Jews; (3) the CP-RF has the strongest regional network of all opposition parties; (4) Zyuganov and his wife are ethnic Russians (nationalist papers often state Yeltsin and his wife have Jewish heritage); (5) Zyuganov understands Russia''s "Jewish Question" and would, if elected, nationalize enterprises developed by Jews.
Other nationalists have not agreed to back Zyuganov. National-Socialist leader ALEXANDER BURKASHOV is supporting Yeltsin. And right-wing writer EDUARD LIMONOV is supporting weight-lifter YURI VLASOV. (OMRI suppl. 5/10)
GRIGORY YAVLINSKY (YABLOKO): Yavlinsky and Yeltsin: Rumors continue to circulate in Moscow and the West of a merger between Yavlinsky and YELTSIN. Speaking to the BBC, Yavlinsky claimed that Yeltsin had raised the possibility of making him Prime Minister, but that he is "not prepared to discuss the issue." The pair met a second time on Wednesday, May 8. Before the second meeting, Yavlinsky spoke tantalizingly of an anti-Communist coalition. "The issue we are going to discuss would be a first in Russian history, a political coalition between the government and the democratic opposition. We could form a coalition to prevent the victory of Mr. ZYUGANOV." (OMRI 5/10, NYT 5/11)
Apparently, taking these statements to heart, Yeltsin seemed to suggest that a deal with Yavlinsky had already been negotiated. Speaking in the Volga region in the city of Astrakhan, Yeltsin stated, "We have met, and we are uniting." Using a sports analogy, Yeltsin claimed the only difference between him and other reform candidates was their "weight class." Yeltsin also claimed that cooperation between himself, Yavlinsky, LEBED, and FEDOROV would not require that the others quit the campaign. He did not elaborate on the point. (Washington Post 5/12)
Yavlinsky later denied the President''s statements and called them "electoral rhetoric." He said the presidential team was trying to "drag me into his entourage" and later warned that Yeltsin could not be trusted to make the necessary policy changes required for his cooperation. Yavlinsky also rejected the President''s "nomenklatura" style of distributing jobs. (Obshchaya Gazeta 5/12, OMRI 5/13)
Presidential Team Pressures Yavlinsky: ANATOLY CHUBAIS, now a senior advisor to the Yeltsin campaign, said to the press, "We have to get Yavlinsky to think more about Russia than he does himself...Even if we were going to be completely cynical, the truth is VIKTOR CHERNOMYRDIN is the Prime Minister. He is a public figure with his own supporters. The role of the regional governors in this campaign is very important, and they support Chernomyrdin." The Mayor of St. Petersburg, ANATOLY SOBCHAK, concurred stating, "Yavlinsky should forget his own political ambitions and back Yeltsin...You are young yet, and I will be ready to support you in the next presidential election." (NYT 5/11, Washington Post 5/12)
VLADIMIR ZHIRINOVSKY (LDPR): On Relations with Yeltsin: The liberal newspaper Sevodnya claimed Zhirinovsky was upset that YELTSIN had not met with him yet. "In all countries of the world, presidents meet with the leaders of parties," Zhirinovsky said, "He should have met first with Zyuganov, and second with Zhirinovsky, whose party rated second with the people, and only then the rest." Zhirinovsky says he is ready for dialogue, and if the President calls, we will react. ALEXEI MITROFANOV, the LDPR campaign manager, stated it was unclear if Yeltsin would seek Zhirinovsky''s support, and even if he did, many of Zhirinovsky''s supporters would not vote for the President. (Sevodnya 5/6, Moscow Tribune 5/8)
Campaign Strategy: Zhirinovsky explained his sometimes scandalous behavior would help him take away votes from ZYUGANOV. Since "the people want Stalin," he promises to be like Stalin, only without the mass repression. To democratic journalists, he states, "If you want to destroy me, sing my praises." In a recent party paper, Zhirinovsky claims 90% of mass media reports are distortions and praised Stalin for halting the export of raw materials and helping develop Russian industry, agriculture, science, and culture. (Argumenty i Fakty No.18, OMRI suppl. 5/10)
ALEXANDER LEBED (DPR/KRO): Lebed on the Possibility of Canceling Elections: "If the elections are canceled or postponed, then the situation will not be political, but criminal." (Washington Post 5/7)
Rejects Cooperation With Yeltsin: "I do not think that the existing government is any better than the Communists." (OMRI 5/13)
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV: Gorbachev Convinces Few: In a meeting with writers at the Gorbachev Foundation, the former Soviet President explained that two-thirds of Russians were dissatisfied with both front-runners and could support a third candidate on June 16 ( namely him. Gorbachev said he would present his platform in mid-May. His first priority would be to stop the Chechen War and his second would be to control government corruption and to increase the war on crime. He further claimed that the LDPR was involved in the punching incident in Omsk, which Gorbachev now calls an assassination attempt. (Moscow Times 5/8)
Confrontation at Volgograd: Gorbachev was confronted by the Stalinist Labor Russia party and its leader VIKTOR ANPILOV as he tried to place flowers at the war memorial. The group blasted Gorbachev for causing the collapse of the Soviet Union and held signs that said, "No Place for Traitors on the Holy Ground of Stalingrad" (OMRI 5/10)
Blasts Media: Gorbachev claimed in the press conference announcing his electoral program that the manipulation of the media by Yeltsin''s team was as great as in the BREZHNEV era, and implored journalists to report fairly on all candidates. "I think the situation is much worse than in the years of Perestroika. We are watching the presidential campaign of a single candidate." (FT 5/13)
III. Polling Results For Presidential Election:
A poll cited in Moskovskiy Komsomolets on 5/6 asked 1600 Russians what issues were important to them in the election and which issue if solved, would make them inclined to vote for YELTSIN. (polling organization not cited)

Of the undecided voters:

  • 13% would vote for Yeltsin if he could guarantee on-time payments of salaries and pensions.
    11% would vote for Yeltsin if he could conclude a real peace in Chechnya.
    10% would vote for Yeltsin if he would return the savings that people lost in reforms.
    5% would vote for Yeltsin if the other candidates were worse.(Zyuganov or Zhirinovsky)
    .2% would vote for Yeltsin if he had a successful foreign policy.
    Obshchaya Gazeta on 5/5-11 reported a poll of 1088 students surveyed by the Miusa Student Information Lab in Moscow and the INISTUM Non-Commercial Fund of Information in the regions.
  • 74% of students were planning to vote in the presidential election.
    Up to 80% were planning to vote in Moscow.
    65% said they voted in the Duma election in December.
    In Moscow and St. Petersburg, in December, students voted for NDR 19.1%, Yabloko 17.9%, Russia''s Choice 14.3%, and CP-RF 8.9%. In the regions, students voted for CP-RF 30%, and LDPR 20%.
    Moscow and St. Petersburg students prefer Yeltsin and Yavlinsky. Yavlinsky maintains some popularity in the regions. Issues important to the Moscow and St. Petersburg students include freedom, economic stability, human relations, education, and future jobs. Regional students prefer Zyuganov. Issues important to students in the regions include stopping crime, social changes, equal rights, and restoring the USSR. (Obshchaya Gazeta 5/5-11, OMRI suppl. 5/10)
    The Tambov-based non-political newspaper, VSE DLYA VAS, sent out a survey to its subscribers on their political preferences. A similar survey prior to the Duma elections proved accurate. 236 individuals responded. 90.2% said they were planning to go to the polls. 15.5% are undecided. 31% back Yeltsin; 22% back Zyuganov, 14.5% support Yavlinsky, 9.4% support Zhirinovsky. Yeltsin has shown a resurgence in the regional paper''s polls. (Moskovskiy Komsomolets 5/5)
For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: SDI Staff. “Russian Election Watch, May 15, 1996.” .