Russian Elections: Weary voters bring no cheer to reform camp
Voices from the cities: Fears for Yeltsin's health, worries over rise of Lebed and boredom with polls erode President's support
Thursday 04 July 1996
This elegant city, home to much of Russia's liberal intelligentsia, finally seems to be sick of politics. "People have had it up to here," said Yevgeny Galovanov, an election official, as he watched people trickle slowly into his polling station.
It's hardly surprising. In the last seven months St Petersburg has gone to the polls five times - once for a parliamentary election, twice for the presidential contest and twice to determine a particularly cynical tussle for the city governor's job.
A communal weariness, underscored by other issues, such as organised crime, a sluggish economy and liberal outrage over Mr Yeltsin's handling Chechen war, was reflected in the turn-out last month. Only 62 per cent took part in the first round of the presidential election, 8 per cent less than the national average.
But if Mr Yeltsin's advisers believed that non-voters would finally rally round the President in yesterday's run-off, they may have been mistaken.
This is not because of a lack of effort by the Yeltsin campaign, even though it fizzled out badly towards the end. Although Mr Yeltsin secured a big victory here, almost 50 per cent in the first round, his advisers know well that a low turn-out is ominous: Communist voters tend always to vote, while Mr Yeltsin's support is far less predictable. They also know that St Petersburg is a bastion ofGrigory Yavlinsky, the liberal economist who grudgingly backs Mr Yeltsin. For the President to be sure of victory, many of these voters needed to be won over.
Hence, the thousands of copies of a free paper called "Vote!" that have circulated in the city's metro system, carrying appeals from celebrated local writers and artists; the city's decision to arrange for graffiti to be painted on walkways, bearing technicolour warnings to the city to "Vote or Lose"; and the free travel on the city's public transport system throughout yesterday's national holiday.
Most voters knew something was amiss with Mr Yeltsin's health, although it was heavily played down by much of the media, which only made occasional references to his "sore throat", and latterly, his "cold". Years of Communist censorship have taught Russians to read between the lines. Like others, Vladimir Korobkov, a dancer with the Maly Theatre, had reservations about Mr Yeltsin and has watched with alarm the rise of retired general Alexander Lebed. "The man's is a dictator," he said.
Alexander Kulakov, a driver, voted for the general in June, but yesterday decided not to turn out. "I thought I was voting for a military man, not a would-be president. I don't like all the power he is getting," he said, "It's not democratic".
In the first round, Dmitry Maksimov, an engineer at St Petersburg's giant Kirov factory, voted for Mr Yeltsin, believing he would win overwhelmingly. Yesterday he supported Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist.
"I would have voted for Boris Nikolayevich if it had not been for all those silly anti- Communist movies on television," he explained. "I don't reject my past. They showed an old lady in a campaign advertisement, saying 'I live well now', when I know she does not."
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday
Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job Randstad Education are ...
£350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reading are...
competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM - A high q...