Storyboard 12: Boris v Gennady

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The Independent Culture
This weekend Russia will choose its leader in what will be only the second free election in the last 1000 years, though a second round may be necessary in July.

"Rivals trade accusations," tut-tutted the Guardian."Stalinist ghosts dog Zyuganov in race to capture Kremlin," observed the Times. The Telegraph suspected that the "smash hit Yeltsin may fade in the polls", while the Independent shook its head at the "fear and loathing in the most important poll of all".

Boris Yeltsin, and his communist challenger Gennady Zyuganov. The campaign has been marred by violence and skulduggery: seven weeks ago, the prime minister's doctor, Viktor Chernomyrdin, was shot dead; last week the Moscow mayor's running mate was injured in a bomb blast outside his apartment; and on Tuesday, a bomb blast on the Moscow metro killedfour people. Yeltsin has exploited the national media to such an extent that Zyuganov has been shut out, and has relieved the Central Bank of $1bn to meet the cost of his election promises. Unsurprisingly, he is ahead in the polls.

"If Russia fails... to strengthen and improve its nascent democracy," warned the Independent, "we will all suffer the consequences". American political scientist Michael McFaul claimed that while he did not "dispute that the trend is in Yeltsin's favour", he believed the result would be "closer than predicted, in fact awfully close". The Russian Independent Institute of Sociology also pointed out that it is generally women who canvass opinion, and that "in many cases they are afraid some criminal or alcoholic will open the door. It is easier for them to ask their friends," it told a forum of pollsters.

"The risk of giving people freedom of political choice is that they might not exercise it wisely. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for Yeltsin, but plenty more not to vote for Zyuganov."

What not to say:

"Sounds like they'd all better go on a big shopping spree, before the shortages start again."