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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Survey Shows Zyuganov Leader of June's Pack

Russia's presidential elections in June promise to be at least as chaotic as December's parliamentary ballot, and, if a recent poll is to be taken as an indicator, could have much the same result -- a triumph for the Communist Party.

Reformer Grigory Yavlinsky joined the race Saturday when his Yabloko party officially nominated him as their candidate for president. The news came as no surprise: Yavlinsky, 43, has said repeatedly that his sights were set on the June 16 elections.

Addressing the party congress that handed him the nomination, Yavlinsky heaped criticism on President Boris Yeltsin, who is, so far, his only rival for the democratic vote.

"The Boris Yeltsin era is over," said Yavlinsky. "All signs point to a rapid decline and weakening of his power."

The candidate also called upon the democrats to unite and form "the broadest possible union" for the presidential elections.

Yavlinsky's words had a hollow ring; it was he who declined a proposed alliance with Democratic Russia's Choice leader Yegor Gaidar in the run-up to December's parliamentary ballot, splitting the democratic vote.

A survey conducted by the Russian Center for Public Opinion Research, or, VTsIOM, placed Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov at the head of the presidential contender pack, favored by 11.3 percent of the 1600 respondents. Yavlinsky came second, with 7.7 percent, followed by ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 7.1. Retired General Alexander Lebed was fourth, with 5.5, and Yeltsin fifth, with 5.4.

To date, 33 groups have begun collecting signatures in support of 27 presidential candidates, a spokesman for the Central Election Commission said Monday. Each candidate must submit to the CEC at least one million signatures supporting his candidacy by April 16.

Yavlinsky has been joined in the race by Zhirinovsky and Lebed. Zyuganov is expected to run for the Communist Party, but he may have competition for the communist vote: Hard-liner Pyotr Romanov has also said he will run.

Yeltsin is still playing coy. While giving every indication that he is in the race, he has refused to declare his candidacy, saying he will make a decision by mid-February.

But Yeltsin's campaign is gearing up, Soviet-style. First deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, who is heading the presidential campaign headquarters, told reporters last week that workers' collectives in several large enterprises had sent letters to Yeltsin asking him to run for a second term.

Yeltsin is increasingly isolated. His dismissal of key reformers from his cabinet and his use of force in the hostage crisis in Pervomaiskoye have alienated democrats without gaining him points with the opposition.

Former chief of staff Sergei Filatov, who will assist Soskovets at campaign headquarters, gave Yeltsin a cautious endorsement in an article published in Saturday's Izvestia.

"We have no other candidate for president today. Unfortunately, [Prime Minister Viktor] Chernomyrdin and [Moscow Mayor Yury] Luzhkov have refused to run."

While Chernomyrdin insists that he will not run against Yeltsin, a group has formed in St. Petersburg to nominate him. Galina Starovoitova, leader of the Democratic Russia movement, told Interfax that the idea had been advanced by several democratic organizations, and if successful would broaden the political spectrum for the elections.