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Sunday, 26 April, 1998, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Russia's other vote
Alexander Lebed says a defeat in Krasnoyarsk would mean an end to his presidential ambitions
Alexander Lebed says a defeat in Krasnoyarsk would mean an end to his presidential ambitions
With Sergey Kiriyenko finally confirmed as Russia's prime minister, attention switches to Siberia and a crucial vote which could affect the race for the presidency in the year 2000. Former Security Supremo Alexander Lebed is attempting to make a comeback by winning the governorship of Krasnoyarsk. But he faces stiff opposition from the incumbent, who has received offers of help from people with with their own ambitions. BBC Russia specialist Malcolm Haslett reports:

Alexander Lebed is the gruff ex-general who surged to prominence in 1996 when he won third place in the presidential election, behind Boris Yeltsin and the Communist Gennadi Zyuganov. He then did a deal with Mr Yeltsin, joining his team for the second round of voting, thus assuring the defeat of the Communists.

Subsequently, as head of the powerful Security Council, Mr Lebed brought the war in Chechnya to an end by signing a ceasefire deal with the Chechens.

But soon afterwards Mr Yeltsin dismissed him. As far as Mr Yeltsin was concerned, he was becoming altogether too influential.

Lebed is trying to make a comeback
Lebed is trying to make a comeback
Now Mr Lebed is trying to make a comeback, as governor of Krasnoyarsk.

Governors in Russia enjoy considerable power. They sit in the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, and are guaranteed a certain exposure to media attention.

So, a win in Sunday's election is hugely important for Alexander Lebed, as a launchpad for a second bid for the presidency.

Mr Lebed has a proven ability to capture votes. Before his good performance in the presidential election he won a seat in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, for the city of Tula, south of Moscow.

But this time he faces a stiff task. He is challenging a relatively popular local incumbent, Valeri Zubov, strongly backed by the Kremlin, and also a strong communist candidate, Pyotr Romanov.

Both have the backing of heavyweight politicians from Moscow. Romanov has been supported by Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov, who may also stand for the presidency again. And Zubov has had the support of another man thought to have presidential ambitions, the outspoken mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov.

Lebed's campaign is supported by film star Alain Delon
Lebed's campaign is supported by film star Alain Delon
To boost his own campaign, Mr Lebed has invited the French film actor Alain Delon to join him in Krasnoyarsk. They met in a TV studio last year when Lebed was visiting France.

And Lebed also seems to have the backing of controversial business and media tycoon Boris Berezovsky.

Governor Zubov is claiming that Mr Berezovsky first offered support to him through his media outlets, which include national dailies and TV stations, in return for his political "cooperation" in the future. But Mr Zubov says he refused the offer, and is now suffering from negative coverage in the Berezovsky owned media.

It is unlikely that anyone will win the 50% needed for victory in the first round. Opinion polls currently show Zubov with a lead, followed closely by Lebed, so these two may well have to contest a run-off in two weeks' time.

The result could therefore depend on where the votes of the communist candidate go in that second round. Many think they could go Lebed's way and ensure him of victory. If they do not he could be facing the political wilderness.

See also:

25 Apr 98 | Monitoring
Lebed versus the press
26 Apr 98 | Despatches
Lebed faces trial by ballot box
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