JULY 4, 1996
With Boris Yeltsin now the official victor in the Russian presidential elections, Special Correspondent Simon Marks takes a look at the significance of this win and looks back on the campaign.
SIMON MARKS: It was a remarkable victory for a man who just six months ago had an approval rating of only 8 percent. As votes were counted across Russia last night, it became clear that Boris Yeltsin had completed a stunning comeback, winning more than half the vote, adding 20 percent to his first round results three weeks ago and gaining a fresh mandate to govern Russia until the turn of the century. Yeltsin's support was spread nationwide and was helped by a high turnout at 67 percent, just 2 percent lower than the first round. Again, the President did well in the Russian Far East and won big majorities in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Communist Leader Gennady Zyuganov won a solid vote in the so-called "red belt," but only added 8 points to his first round result, proving unable to expand significantly beyond his base in the southern industrial heartland. Back in the Kremlin and looking healthier than he has for a week, the President thanked his supporters in a taped television address.
PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN, Russia: (speaking through interpreter) Let's not divide the country into winners and losers. Let's work together. We have one Russia, a big, great country, one Russia, one destiny, and that means one future.
SIMON MARKS: Boris Yeltsin's conciliatory tone seemed to affect the defeated Communist candidate, Gennady Zyuganov. At first he hinted he would contest the election result, but after President Yeltsin's indication that there may be room in the new government for some Communist sympathizers, he conceded his loss.
GENNADY ZYUGANOV, Communist Party Leader: (speaking through interpreter) We've yet to receive official word from the government, but let me repeat that we are prepared to consider any proposal after we've seen the direction in which policy is moving, and after we've satisfied ourselves that it is in the interest of Russia.
SIMON MARKS: Boris Yeltsin moved quickly today to begin forming his new government. He announced the reappointment of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Communists in the lower house of the Russian parliament said Chernomyrdin's nomination is likely to be approved. The President's national security adviser General Alexander Lebed said Russians had made the right choice but warned the size of the Communist vote demonstrates there are deep divisions in Russian society that could eventually cause a social explosion. Following Boris Yeltsin's weeklong disappearance from the public eye, Kremlin officials are at pains to emphasize that the President is now back at work and moving forward with his plans for a second term in office. But President Yeltsin's only appearance today was on television, and he hasn't fulfilled a single public engagement in the last eight days. Political analysts here say whatever the true state of his health, the Russian leader must create the impression that he's firmly in charge. Andrei Kortunov of the Russian Science Foundation.
ANDREI KORTUNOV, Russian Science Foundation: If he wants to keep his personal control over the situation in the Kremlin, he cannot afford the luxury to disappear. He should steer the situation, he should monitor the situation, and, uh, he should make sure that he is the master of the game. We know that there is a potential conflict between the government and the presidential administration. There might be a conflict between Lebed and Chernomyrdin. There might be other conflicts, and Yeltsin cannot simply relax and enjoy his victory.
SIMON MARKS: Today the President was thanking some of those officials whose support was central to his victory, among them the popular mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, now one of a handful of men analysts say could succeed President Yeltsin if he fails to complete his second term in office, and Igor Maleshenko, president of Russia's Independent Television Network, NTV, which tarnished its reputation for objectivity by openly favoring Yeltsin in its coverage of the election campaign. Even as word of the President's victory was spreading last night, city officials in Moscow were taking down the campaign banners and posters that have dominated the landscape here for the past six weeks. The election that some thought would never take place did occur on schedule, though after two presidential and two parliamentary elections since the fall of the Soviet Union, some analysts say Russian democracy still faces one more big test.
ANDREI KORTUNOV: I don't think it is the ultimate test for the Russian democracy. The ultimate test for any democracy is the transition of power, and when and if we have real transition and if it goes smoothly, that will prove that the democracy in Russia is getting mature.
SIMON MARKS: For now, there will be no transition in the Kremlin. Boris Yeltsin has the constitutional right to rule until the year 2000. Now the question is whether he can physically do so and whether the Kremlin will become quickly consumed by a power struggle to succeed him.