Russia's Elections From A(pple) to Z(hirinovsky)
SCORECARD ON MAJOR PARTIES
ON Sunday, Russia will hold the first fully constitutional parliamentary elections since before the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. The current Duma, or lower house of parliament, has served for two years under elections held by presidential decree. The new Duma will serve four years, elected under a democratically enacted election law.Skip to next paragraph
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Only one Russian Duma in history - in 1912 under Czar Nicholas II - has peacefully and legally handed power to a successor Duma.
Many Russian voters are unhappy about fallen income and worthless pensions, as well as the sense of lawlessness in Russia. They are expected to shift the Duma toward stronger state controls and a stronger social safety net. The main beneficiary: the Communist Party.
The issues where the Communists will want to make a difference: Slowing down privatization of state enterprises and beefing up social payments to pensioners.
But Kremlin aides to President Boris Yeltsin have become relaxed about the Duma elections. The Communists may have few, if any, leftist allies in the Duma, and may thus be denied working control of parliament even if they make their projected gains.
The real import of this election, however, is as a sort of primary for the Rus-sian presidential election next June. Under the Russian Constitution, the president holds the real power. It takes the vote of two-thirds of the Duma to overturn a presidential decree.
If Mr. Yeltsin loses or does not run in this presidential election, the vote would represent the first democratic leadership succession in Russian history. The Duma results will help show who the strong presidential contenders may be.
The Duma seats 450 deputies. Half are elected from districts, much like the US House of Representatives. Half are divided in proportion to votes received by those parties that win at least 5 percent of the vote. Current estimates are that as few as four and as many as nine parties may break the 5 percent threshold.
But all projections are slippery. As one Kremlin analyst puts it: ''Any voter could vote for almost anyone from anarchists to monarchists.''
Successor to the party that ran the Soviet Union, the Communist Party is set for a strong comeback. The party is expected to win as much as 35 percent of the Duma seats - far more than any other party but also far short of a majority.
The Communist voters are concentrated among older Russians, who have seen their pensions and life savings become worthless in a few short years of runaway inflation. To them, the Soviet years were times of superpower status, safe streets, and affordable sausage - even if lines were long and quality was poor.
Today's Communist Party is not quite the old breed. Leader Gennady Zyuganov quotes from the Bible and accepts private property. But the party platform makes clear that the Communists want the state to own and control the national distribution of goods and many key industries, and to restore subsidy levels to many large, failing enterprises.
Zyuganov on recent history: ''The Soviet Union collapsed because the Communist Party claimed a monopoly on truth, a monopoly on power, and a monopoly on property. We don't.''
The leading bloc (political alliance) among market-oriented democrats, Yabloko is led by reform economist Grigory Yavlinsky. (Yabloko means ''apple'' in Russian, based on the initials of its founders.) He has grown more popular than the more radical reformer Yegor Gaidar who brought Russia ''shock therapy'' and the rough first rounds of reform.
Mr. Yavlinsky's Yabloko regards itself as the democratic opposition to the Yeltsin administration, which Yavlinsky accuses of creating a new ruling elite that replaces the old Communists.