Ballot-box battles for the Bear and also the Apple

support as early returns show pro-Putin Unity party and Communists fighting it out

RUSSIAN VOTERS yesterday had a confusing array of parties to choose from:

Communist Party of the Russian Federation: A decade after the collapse of Soviet Union communism, it remains the strongest in Russia.

Unity or The Bear movement: This party, created to support the Kremlin, shot into second place in polls thanks to the sudden popularity of the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, because of the war in Chechnya. Fatherland- All Russia: Grouping the respected former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov, dynamic Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, and powerful regional governors, this bloc seemed unbeatable until the start of the war in Chechnya.

Yabloko or The Apple party: Led by Grigory Yavlinsky, a liberal economist who was not, however, involved in implementing reforms. Supporters see it as the "party of decency" and critics as the "party of theorists who avoided taking responsibility". Takes its name from first letters of the original founders' names but the word also means "apple".

Our Home is Russia, the bloc of the former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and ex-premier Sergei Kiriyenko's

Union of Right Forces are ideologically similar. But they failed to work together, so the potential vote for advocates of the free market will be split.

The nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky has had problems registering his party and may leave politics.

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