A dangerous situation is developing in which both sides appear convinced that the other is going to cheat in the elections. It is a hallmark of democracy that power is transferred peacefully from one leader to another because both sides accept the legitimacy of the electoral process and acknowledge that, even if they are defeated in this ballot, they will live to fight again in the next. The upcoming presidential election will be the first in which these principles will be put to the test in Russia, but to judge from the accusations and counter-accusations being traded by the Yeltsin and Zyuganov camps, trust that democratic norms will be observed and that the electoral process will be legitimate is not strong. This lack of confidence is shared by the population. In a poll in January 1996, two-thirds of those questioned said they would "not be surprised" if the presidential election was rigged, and only 18 percent were ready to rule the possibility out. (Argumenty i fakty, May 6)
Earlier this month, the Duma failed to overturn a Federation Council veto on a bill that would have permitted private citizens to act as election monitors. The bill, drafted by Yabloko member Viktor Sheinis, would also have required an independent check of 2 percent of the ballots in each Russian region. The upper house of parliament vetoed the bill on the grounds that it would be expensive to implement and that no money had been earmarked for the purpose in the federal budget. (Moscow News, March 17; Itar-Tass, May 17)
Moscow Slams NATO, Builds Bridges to Belgrade.