Russian Election Yields Big Winners Shocks Losers

MOSCOW (Reuters)–The Communist Party and the Unity bloc emerged on Monday as the leading forces in Russia’s lower house of parliament after a race which produced some surprises.

Following is a summary of how the main parties fared in Sunday’s State Duma election–according to provisional results.

Communist Party: The Communists were on target to win about a quarter of votes cast and welcomed the result. They improved on the 22.3 percent of votes they achieved in the last Duma election in 1995–but also suffered some misfortunes. Their pre-election alliance broke up before the poll and their domination of the Duma has receded because of Unity’s success. Their allies fared worse than in 1995–leaving the Communists with only the Fatherland-All Russia group as a potential ally among the major parties and blocs.

Unity (Yedinstvo): The newly formed regions-based election bloc gave the Communists a run for their money–trailing by only about one percentage point–and achieved a major success in snatching votes–as the Kremlin had hoped–from the other main centrist group–Fatherland-All Russia. Unity achieved success on a vague program and with mostly unfamiliar candidates but were boosted by friendly media coverage during campaigning–the support of popular Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the good image of their leader– Sergei Shoigu.

Union Of Right-Wing Forces: This coalition of "young reformers" did surprisingly well to win about nine percent of votes. Led by former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko and including people who held important positions in his cabinet–the group did well to shake off the stigma of being associated with Russia’s economic collapse in August 1998.

Fatherland-All Russia: This left-leaning centrist coalition was positioned third on about 12 percent–but had expected to do much better. Its leaders–former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov–paid the price for falling out with the Kremlin and suffered fierce media attacks during the campaign. Some analysts said overtures to the Communists may also have damaged their image and the result augured badly for Primakov’s presidential bid. Luzhkov’s re-election as Moscow mayor in a vote also held on Sunday was not enough to relieve the gloom.

Zhirinovsky Bloc: This coalition led by nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky–and dominated by his Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR)–can breathe a sigh of relief that it managed to muster the five percent of votes needed to claim a share of the 225 seats decided on "party lists" in the 450-seat Duma chamber. Zhirinovsky’s success had been in doubt after the LDPR was barred from running. The new bloc had only just over six percent–much less than the 11 percent the LDPR won in 1995 and when it became the biggest faction in the Duma in 1993.

Yabloko: This liberal party was running at 6.10 percent compared with 6.89 percent four years ago and looked set to slip from being the fourth biggest vote-winner to only the sixth biggest.

Our Home Is Russia: The centrist party set up before the 1995 election by then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was the biggest loser of the election. It was running at only slighter more than one percent–compared to more than 10 percent in 1995.


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