2 of the 3 Losers Criticize Election

ReutersLiberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky gesturing as he votes with his wife, Galina Lebedeva, at a polling station in Moscow on Sunday.
Gennady Zyuganov arrived at the press center of his Communist Party's headquarters a few minutes after national television started broadcasting initial results at 9 p.m. Sunday.

The 63-year-old Communist leader looked tense and said he had been hoping to win. But with some 20 percent of the vote in early returns, he conceded defeat to Dmitry Medvedev and promised to go to court.

"If there had been a direct debate, I would have won this election," he exclaimed loudly.

Medvedev, poised to win a landslide victory after being endorsed by President Vladimir Putin, refused to participate in televised debates with Zyuganov and the other two presidential candidates, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Andrei Bogdanov, an independent.

Zyuganov said his supporters had uncovered numerous violations and that he should have gotten at least 30 percent of the vote.

"I have a list of 200 violations, each one being more cynical than the next," he said.

He said he would challenge the results in court.

Zyuganov said he had seen the defeat coming due to the "unfair campaign."

During his 15-minute speech, Zyuganov also called for reforms to make the Kremlin more accountable to the State Duma.

After delivering the speech and taking several questions, Zyuganov walked to a nearby two-story yellow mansion that houses the party's headquarters. A spokesman said Zyuganov "didn't see any point" in further contact with reporters and denied a reporter entry to the building at 3 Maly Sukharevsky Pereulok.

Zyuganov, the most popular of the three outside candidates going into the election, appeared on track to score significantly better than the 11 percent projected in the most recent opinion poll by the independent Levada Center. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Still, the results were a far cry from 1996, when Zyuganov trailed the incumbent Boris Yeltsin by a mere 3 percentage points going into a second round of voting. Zyuganov ended up losing to Yeltsin by 13 percent in the runoff.

Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov casting his ballot on Sunday.
In the 2000 election, Zyuganov got 29.21 percent of the vote, losing to Putin's 52.52 percent. He skipped the 2004 election after the Communists faired poorly in Duma elections the previous December. The party instead fielded Nikolai Kharitonov, who won 14 percent of the vote. The Communists won 11.57 percent of the vote in Duma elections last December.

Zhirinovsky -- who looked set to make his best showing with his fourth presidential bid -- criticized the election as unfair and insisted that he had beaten Zyuganov.

"I know that more people voted for me. A majority of the civil servants, even a majority of journalists, voted for me," he said at his party's headquarters on 9 Lukov Pereulok.

Preliminary results gave Zhirinovsky some 12.5 percent of the vote.

"I had hoped to win three times more votes," he said.

Zhirinovsky also vowed to dispute the results in court.

"We have always sued even though it is useless, and we will sue this time too," Zhirinovsky said.

He said the violations were similar to those his supporters had detected during the Duma elections in December, but did not elaborate.

Zhirinovsky, however, said it would be useless to organize street protests.

Reverting to his trademark colorful style, he lashed out at his rivals. "Medvedev is the official candidate of power. He gets all the administrative resources," he said.

"Zyuganov is the old song of communism. And then there is this tramp," he said, referring to the long-haired Bogdanov.

A senior party official said the election results did not spell the end of Zhirinovsky's career, noting they were much better than the 2.7 percent he received when he last ran in 2000. "This man has his electorate," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Andrei Bogdanov, leader of the Democratic Party, voting for himself Sunday.
The 61-year-old veteran politician took third place with some 8 percent of the vote in 1991 and 5.7 percent in 1996. He opted not to run in 2004, leaving the job to his former bodyguard Oleg Malyshkin, who scored 2 percent. His party won 8.14 percent in the last Duma election.

The recent Levada survey gave Zhirinovsky 9 percent.

On Sunday night, Zhirinovsky loudly complained about the unfair allocation of airtime on state television.

"I want to serve my electorate. I know they voted for me, and these numbers are just paper," he said.

Over at Bogdanov's campaign headquarters, the mood was distinctly relaxed, even though early results showed he had finished a distant fourth with less than 2 percent.

"Before now, absolutely nobody knew who I was. The old generation of democrats is finished. This is the time for the new generation," Bogdanov told a small group of reporters, including about 10 television cameras, at his headquarters on 18 Poltavskaya Ulitsa.

Holding a plastic cup of vodka, the 38-year-old leader of the little-known Democratic Party said he was "satisfied" and "happy" with the result.

He then toasted his young staff of fewer than 15 people before a small, alcohol-heavy buffet was then made available to party activists and reporters. The reporters soon became more interested in the beverages than the candidate.

Alexander Bogdanov, the 28-year-old brother of Bogdanov and a campaign activist, said his family was proud. "Of course our family is proud. We all work for the party anyway," he said. Among the other members of the family who campaigned was Bogdanov's grandmother.

Bogdanov ran as an independent because his Democratic Party did not make it into the Duma in December, capturing around 0.13 percent of the vote, or less than 90,000 votes. The party, whose roots go back to the early 1990s and which Bogdanov has headed up since 2005, claims to have more than 75,000 members nationwide. Bogdanov had to obtain 2 million signatures to get on the ballot.

The Levada poll indicated he would get about 1 percent.

Medvedev, meanwhile, was supposed to arrive at his campaign headquarters at 11 p.m., but state television showed live footage of him and Putin attending a rock concert on Red Square around that time.

The Moscow Times was among media outlets denied accreditation to Medvedev's campaign headquarters. Medvedev's spokesman, Alexei Pavlov, linked the decision to a prohibition on foreign media. No foreign newspapers were accredited, and "we consider you a foreign newspaper," Pavlov said.

The Moscow Times is legally a Russian media outlet and is registered with the authorities as such.

The Moscow Times also was barred from Polling Station No. 2614 in western Moscow, where Medvedev cast his ballot earlier Sunday. A spokesman for Medvedev said the decision was due to of lack of space at the polling station.

Spokespeople for Medvedev have rejected repeated requests over the past six months to join his media pool for working trips to various regions.