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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin's Bid Has Begun, But Is He Going to Run?

Zealous supporters of President Boris Yeltsin launched a campaign Thursday for his reelection in the 1996 polls.


The president, however, has not announced his candidacy, and was not informed of the campaign.


Convinced that Yeltsin represents the only force capable of uniting Russians, the campaign's leaders, who included Vladimir Komchatov, Yeltsin's official Moscow representative, and a handful of "leaders of social organizations," seemed undaunted by his poor ratings.


According to a survey carried out this summer by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, only 3 percent of Russians fully support Yeltsin, while 56 percent believe he should resign.


But representatives of the campaign committee were quick to dismiss such statistics, in language reminiscent of pre-Yeltsin eras.


"I don't pay attention to the ratings," said Lev Shemayev, one of the campaign's organizers. "I can order any rating and get any result I want. There are completely different factors that determine the usefulness, the realization or the objective necessity of making Yeltsin continue to be the head of state.


"If you looked attentively at what he has done in these years, especially during his time as president, you'd understand that a completely different point of view exists among sensible people today."


And according to the campaigners, Yeltsin's health presents even less of a problem.


Yeltsin is currently recovering from a minor heart attack and is subject to much conjecture regarding his drinking habits. During the president's working holiday last April, his wife Naina suggested he was not well, saying that he needed a rest, and that she was against him running for a second term.


At the meeting, however, Shemayev focused on Yeltsin's continuing ability to play tennis, adding that speculation about his health was frequently politically motivated.


"Nobody ever worried about President Roosevelt's health," added Ilya Roitman, another member of the committee. "And he was paralyzed. Compared to him, Boris Nikolayevich is in very good health."


The committee pledged to get one million signatures by the end of the year in support of Yeltsin's candidacy. The representatives said they planned to operate through regional networks, rather than appealing to political parties. Asked how many members the committee has at present, Shemayev said four, while Roitman said there were 10.


And none saw any reason to inform the president of their activity. "Why should we?" Roitman said. "His job is to run the country, ours is to organize his campaign."


In the event that he decides not to run for reelection, his supporters said they would simply apply their campaigning to whichever candidate he decides to back.