Russia’s former Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed was in the lead last night after the first round of the election for the governorship of Krasnoyarsk Krai in central Siberia. With 88 percent of the votes counted, Lebed was leading with 44 percent of the votes, incumbent governor Valery Zubov had 36 percent and Communist candidate Petr Romanov had 14 percent. (NTV, April 26)
Because no candidate seems about to secure the 50 percent required for outright victory in the first round, it is likely that Lebed and Zubov will fight it out in a second round in two weeks’ time. Much will depend then on which candidate manages to attract the Communist vote. Interest nationwide is intense: Lebed has made it clear that he sees mineral-rich Krasnoyarsk, Russia’s second largest region, as a springboard for his presidential campaign in 2000.
Turnout was high, with over 60 percent of registered voters going to the polls. There was a marked difference between urban and rural voters, with rural inhabitants preferring Lebed and the inhabitants of the big cities tending toward reform-minded Zubov.
During his campaign, Lebed was able to make capital out of local discontent about low living standards. In terms of natural resources, Krasnoyarsk is almost unrivaled in the world. It produces 80 percent of Russia’s nickel, 75 percent of its cobalt, 70 percent of its copper, 40 percent of its timber, 16 percent of its coal and 10 percent of its gold. Yet living standards are lower than in Russia’s central regions. Lebed promised yesterday to redress the balance and to force the federal government to make tax concessions to the region. He refused to be more specific about his policies, or to identify his financial backers. (NTV, April 26) Media magnate Boris Berezovsky revealed last week that he was supporting Lebed, not because he supported Lebed’s policies, but in order to open up the race for the presidency in 2000.
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