Centrist parties make gains in Russian election

DUMA VOTE: 107m people will decide who rules after Boris Yeltsin steps down, as exit polls showed Unity and the Communists fighting it out

RUSSIANS VOTED yesterday in parliamentary elections that marked the beginning of the end of Boris Yeltsin's flawed presidency. The results of the race for the 450-seat State Duma will give the best indication yet of who is likely to rule Russia after Mr Yeltsin leaves the Kremlin in June.

The first results showed the pro-Kremlin Unity alliance surging ahead with 32 per cent of the vote, reflecting the soaring popularity of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. One exist poll showed the Communists were likely to be the biggest single force in the Duma.

The first of 107 million electors started voting in the far east of this vast country, which stretches over 11 time zones. The President was among the first to cast his ballot in Moscow.

On Saturday, in the pause between the end of campaigning and the opening of the polls, Mr Yeltsin told Russians that for him, it was a matter of honour to become the first Kremlin leader to make a voluntary transfer of power.

He hoped to see a new Duma that would work more constructively with the government than the outgoing assembly, which was dominated by his Communist opponents.

This suggested that he would almost certainly vote for the Unity or "Bear" Party, created only two months ago to support Mr Putin, his heir of preference.

If "Bear", led by the popular Emergencies Minister, Sergei Shoigu, makes a strong showing, that will further boost the presidential chances of Mr Putin, already enjoying a high rating because of the war he is pursuing in Chechnya. If the Communists or the more moderate opposition bloc, Fatherland-All Russia (FAR), do well, that will make it less of a foregone conclusion that Mr Putin will inherit the Kremlin. If he does, he might have to deal with another turbulent parliament, as Mr Yeltsin did.

Opinion polls put the Communists in first place.They enjoy a loyal following, mainly among elderly Russians. Second came "Bear".The Communist Party, which had a monopoly on power for the 77-year existence of the Soviet Union, is Russia's only real party in that it stands for a permanent philosophy and has links with the grass roots.

All the other 25 parties on offer are developing and many are blocs of convenience in which politicians come together as it suits them. None more so than "Bear", which hopes to become the new "party of power" on the strength of Mr Shoigu's friendship with Mr. Putin. The Communists topped the opinion polls last week because the other opposition bloc, FAR, seemed to be failing to live up to the promise it showed in the summer.

Then, after the respected former premier, Yevgeny Primakov, joined forces with Moscow's dynamic mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, it looked unstoppable.

It called for constitutional changes that would limit the ability of a future president to dismiss prime ministers arbitrarily and also spoke out against the corruption that has marred Mr Yeltsin's rule. But although Mr Luzhkov kept up his fiery rhetoric against the Kremlin, Mr Primakov seemed reluctant to criticise the government as Russia united to go to war in Chechnya.

That changed last Friday when Mr Primakov, 70, announced that he was throwing his hat into the ring for the presidency, thus ensuring that Mr. Putin, 47, would have a heavyweight challenger.

The elder statesman's announcement came too late to be reflected in the opinion polls and it remains to be seen how much of a recovery FAR will make in the Duma vote.

Of the other parties, only the liberal Yabloko and the pro-market Union of Rightist Forces were thought likely to get over the threshold of 5 per cent, the minimum needed to enter the Lower House.

Another sacked premier, URF co-leader Sergei Kirienko, seemed to have little hope of success. He is remembered as the man in charge when the economy crashed in August 1998.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Day In a Page

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road