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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin's Poll Decree Seen Aimed at Mayor

When Russians go to the polls June 16, it has long been assumed that here in the capital they will be casting their ballots for a mayor as well as a president.


And Wednesday, both Interfax and Itar-Tass reported that President Boris Yeltsin had made that official with a decree. But in Moscow politics, it seems that nothing is ever so simple.


While Interfax provided the serial number and the name of the presidential spokesman who signed the relevant press release, Yeltsin's office flatly denied the decree's existence.


A spokesman in the Moscow City Duma rather huffily said the president had no business issuing such a decree in any case, because setting the date for mayoral elections is the Duma's prerogative. That contention was promptly contested by other officials -- although the June 16 date for mayoral polls still seems fairly certain.


At least one political observer in Moscow interpreted a clear message from Yeltsin to Mayor Yury Luzhkov out of all this confusion, namely that he should remember his place.


"I think it means that Yeltsin does not want Luzhkov to compete with him in the presidential elections," said Sergei Markov, an associate at the Moscow center of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. "He's saying 'Please take Moscow and don't bother about Russia.' It's a very smart policy."


Markov pointed to the December 1994 storming by Kremlin guards of the MOST Bank headquarters in the mayor's office building, and a recent television appearance by Yeltsin's chief bodyguard Alexander Korzhakov as further indications of the Kremlin's anxiety to keep Luzhkov out of the presidential race.


"If he decides to run for re-election as mayor, I will vote for him," Korzhakov said of Luzhkov in the television interview. "But if he decides to run for president in the year 2000, I will not vote for him."


One thing not in question is Luzhkov's chances assuming that he does run in mayoral elections. He would, without question, win.


And while Luzhkov may be keen to run for president, there is every chance that he will heed Yeltsin's message. Indeed he has on several occasions denied any presidential ambitions. "It's very difficult for him to fight against Yeltsin," Markov said. "Yeltsin is too heavy a figure."