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Experts Predict Yeltsin Victory in June Election

By Rustin C. Silverstein

Despite the recent resurgence of the Communist Party, Boris Yeltsin will likely be re-elected president of Russia, a panel of Russian political experts told an audience of about 250 at the Kennedy School of Government's Arco Forum last night.

The four-person panel, titled "The Russian Presidential Election: Forward to the Past?", included two Russian political leaders, a British journalist and a Kennedy School professor who, while agreeing on the outcome of the upcoming elections, offered vastly different reasons for their beliefs.

Panel-member Sergei Kolsenikov, a senior adviser to Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, said Yeltsin will prevail in the June elections because of his political record.

Speaking through a translator, Kolsenikov credited Yeltsin with the successful creation of the new Russian state, specifically the establishment of sustained civil peace.

"Yeltsin is relying on the amalgamation of all the healthy political forces [including] the common sense of all the citizens in Russia," Kolsenikov said.

But the panel's journalist, John Lloyd, the former Moscow bureau chief for London's The Financial Times, said Yeltsin may win for a more simple reason: His supporters will count the ballots.

Citing a quotation by Josef Stalin, Lloyd said, "He who controls the votes will win the election."

In addition to serving as moderator, Dillon Professor of Government Graham T. Allison Jr. offered his own predictions of the outcome of the Russian elections.

Allison said Yeltsin has the best chance of winning, but the Russian people's perception that living conditions are worsening may hurt his chances.

Allison said Russian voters are unlikely to be swayed by Yeltsin's "hollow" campaign promises. Ultimately, they will have to answer what he called the "Reagan Question."

"Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"

Irina Khakamada, president of the Common Cause Party and a member of the Russian State Duma, said that regardless of Yeltsin's victory, Russian politicians must focus on fostering democratic institutions among the people.

"Democracy [in Russia] has not been built from the grassroots. It has been built from the top down.... Homo Democratus has not yet evolved in Russia," Khakamada said.

Currently, Yeltsin's main rival and the current front runner in the race is the Communist Party candidate, Gennady Zyuganov.

According to Lloyd, the return of a Communist leader to power would lead to economic destabilization, possible political authoritarianism and "if not a Cold War, a Cold Peace [with the West]."

Allison called the June 16 election "the most important election being held in 1996," outweighing even the American presidential contest in November.

Former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar was scheduled to appear on the panel but could not attend due to unexplained circumstances

In addition to serving as moderator, Dillon Professor of Government Graham T. Allison Jr. offered his own predictions of the outcome of the Russian elections.

Allison said Yeltsin has the best chance of winning, but the Russian people's perception that living conditions are worsening may hurt his chances.

Allison said Russian voters are unlikely to be swayed by Yeltsin's "hollow" campaign promises. Ultimately, they will have to answer what he called the "Reagan Question."

"Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"

Irina Khakamada, president of the Common Cause Party and a member of the Russian State Duma, said that regardless of Yeltsin's victory, Russian politicians must focus on fostering democratic institutions among the people.

"Democracy [in Russia] has not been built from the grassroots. It has been built from the top down.... Homo Democratus has not yet evolved in Russia," Khakamada said.

Currently, Yeltsin's main rival and the current front runner in the race is the Communist Party candidate, Gennady Zyuganov.

According to Lloyd, the return of a Communist leader to power would lead to economic destabilization, possible political authoritarianism and "if not a Cold War, a Cold Peace [with the West]."

Allison called the June 16 election "the most important election being held in 1996," outweighing even the American presidential contest in November.

Former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar was scheduled to appear on the panel but could not attend due to unexplained circumstances

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