Gennady Zyuganov’s performance, while demonstrating the party’s organizational skills as well as some ongoing popular support for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), also and perhaps more importantly showed that backing for the KPRF–or, perhaps, for Zyuganov personally–is eroding in its traditional strongholds. In the 1996 presidential election, the KPRF’s overall strong showing forced a run-off election, in which then-incumbent President Boris Yeltsin defeated Zyuganov by 58.82 percent to 40.31 percent. Zyuganov in 1996 carried a number of regions in the southern agricultural “Red Belt” which has traditionally supported the KPRF. This time, however, Zyuganov even lost in the southern region of Krasnodar, traditionally a pro-Communist bastion. On the other hand, he did well in the liberal bastion of St. Petersburg, winning 16.97 percent and coming in second, ahead of Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, a traditional St. Petersburg favorite, who won only 10.57 percent of the vote. In the 1996 election, Zyuganov came in third in St. Petersburg with 14.94 percent, behind Yavlinsky, who received 15.15 percent.
In any case, the fact that the Communists continue to hold the second-place position in Russian politics was noted by Putin during a press conference he gave in the early hours of this morning, before the final tally was in but after it was clear that he was heading for a first-round victory. Putin noted that Russia’s “protest” electorate remains large, and said, in essence, that its concerns cannot be written off (ORT, March 27). For his part, Zyuganov suggested that there had been widespread cheating in the vote (NTV, March 26).
ANTI-PUTIN DEMOCRATS PUNISHED AT THE POLLS.