Yeltsin opponent wins key job in Duma

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The Independent Online
MOSCOW (AP) - One of President Boris Yeltsin's hardline opponents was elected speaker of the lower house of Russia's new parliament yesterday by a single, disputed vote.

Mr Yeltsin's supporters challenged the vote count but lost in a raucous session of the 450-seat Duma. Dozens of parliament members jumped from their chairs and rushed to view the contested ballot paper, a pink slip that they passed from hand to hand.

When the election of a former Communist Party official, Ivan Rybkin, was confirmed, half the delegates in the chamber cheered. The other half - Mr Yeltsin's backers - sat in stony silence.

'It's a marvellous result,' said the former Soviet parliament speaker Anatoly Lukyanov, a Communist who was elected to the Duma last month, even though he is on trial for treason during the August 1991 Communist coup attempt.

The vote-counting commission announced that 222 ballots were clearly marked for Mr Rybkin and that the election came down to a single, disputed ballot on which the name of Yuri Vlasov - a former Olympic weightlifting champion - was crossed out and Mr Rybkin's underlined.

With six of the Duma's seats vacant Mr Rybkin needed a simple majority, 223 votes, to be elected. The commission declared the disputed ballot valid and parliament confirmed the ruling.

Yeltsin supporters boycotted the vote because all pro-reform candidates had been eliminated. They hoped to stop Mr Rybkin's election and force the Duma to consider new candidates.

Surrounded by joyous supporters, Mr Rybkin left without making an acceptance speech.