Russia’s former security chief Aleksandr Lebed has returned from the political wilderness to win a resounding victory in yesterday’s election for the governorship in Krasnoyarsk Krai in central Siberia. Election officials said Lebed won 57 percent of the votes–well ahead of the Kremlin-backed incumbent, Valery Zubov, with 38 percent. (NTV, May 17) In an attempt to mop up the 15 percent of the votes that went to the communist candidate in the first round, Zubov had struck an eleventh-hour deal with the local Communist Party, but clearly the voters were not impressed. Despite numerous reports of violations big and small of electoral regulations, Zubov conceded defeat late last night and said he had no intention of disputing the outcome.
Lebed is now a leading contender for the 2000 presidential election. Krasnoyarsk is Russia’s second largest component territory and, in terms of natural wealth, it 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. The governorship will give Lebed access to the financial resources he has lacked until now as well as prominence as a leading member of the Federation Council. His politics are still unclear. Throughout the election campaign, he has declined to spell out what he will do in power. Speaking to Independent Television last night, he refused to be drawn on his presidential ambitions, saying that he now intends to get down to the “enormous, difficult, routine” task of governing his enormous territory. (NTV, May 17)
RUSSIA PARTICIPATES FULLY IN BIRMINGHAM SUMMIT.