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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Korzhakov Urges Delay of Elections

Rumors that President Boris Yeltsin is planning to delay June's presidential vote gathered steam Sunday with the publication of remarks by his powerful security chief in which he favored a postponement and backed a recent appeal by top businessmen for compromise between the candidates.

General Alexander Korzhakov, head of the Presidential Security Service and widely seen as one of the most influential members of Yeltsin's inner circle, was quoted Sunday by Britain's The Observer as saying the election should be postponed to prevent instability.

"A lot of influential people are in favor of postponing the elections and I'm in favor of it too because we need stability," he told the newspaper's Moscow correspondent after a May Day rally Wednesday.

A spokesman in the Kremlin press service said Sunday that he had no information on Korzhakov's comments to The Observer, but later added that officials in Korzhakov's office told him the security chief could not have made such statements.

But Korzhakov repeated the sentiments Sunday in comments to Interfax. "People must be given time to calmly think about everything and reach a mature conclusion. For this, more time is needed than we have until June 16," he told the agency by telephone.

Korzhakov said he knew of "entire regions where the civilized expression of people's will is impossible as yet.

"The society is splitting, even families are splitting: some are for Yeltsin, others for [Communist leader Gennady] Zyuganov. ... Such division of souls is dangerous," he said. Korzhakov stressed he was expressing his own opinion, which should not be identified with the opinions of Yeltsin.

No one in the Presidential Security Service could be reached directly Sunday.

Analysts and observers have been predicting for months that fear of a loss at the voters' hands could motivate Yeltsin to cancel the ballot. While he has been gaining ground, most public opinion surveys still place Yeltsin behind Communist Party leader Zyuganov.

The Observer also reported that a secret Kremlin poll conducted in mid-April showed Yeltsin trailing Zyuganov by 20 percent and ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky by 5 percent.

According to the most recent poll by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, or VTsIOM, Zyuganov is leading Yeltsin, 27 percent to 21 percent.

A report by the Institute of the Sociology of Parliamentarism obtained by Reuters last week predicted Zyuganov would win 38 to 47 percent of the June vote, with Yeltsin receiving only 16 to 20 percent.

Other polls have put the two much closer, with a The Moscow Times/CNN poll placing them neck and neck.

A poll of 1,500 Russians, conducted April 20 to 21 by the Russian ROMIR polling company, an associate of Gallup, puts support for both Yeltsin and Zyuganov at 28 percent.

Korzhakov's comments to The Observer followed an appeal for compromise from 13 top Russian bankers and industrialists published April 27 in Moscow's major newspapers, which warned that the June vote, regardless of who wins it, may lead to civil war and the break-up of the country.

Korzhakov voiced similar statements in his remarks to The Observer."If we have the elections there is no way of avoiding a fight," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "If Yeltsin wins, the radical opposition will rush into the streets claiming the results were falsified and there will be unrest. If Zyuganov wins, even if he wants to take a centrist line, the same people won't let him and they'll scream."

In an interview published Sunday in Pravda, Zyuganov said that the Yeltsin government was afraid to face the voters.

"The 'party of power' is afraid of losing the elections, inasmuch as it is unable to cope with the situation," Zyuganov told the newspaper. "The authorities are prepared to rob citizens of their right to correct the situation with the ballot."

What actually is going on behind the scenes is open to wide interpretation.

Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said postponing the June vote would be "politically unprofitable" for Yeltsin, and that the Communists may be amenable to a deal giving them key posts, including that of prime minister or even a new vice presidency.

Viktor Kremenyuk of the Russian Academy of Sciences' USA/Canada Institute said the Korzhakov comments suggest the presidential administration is split into two camps.

"One of them thinks that the power and the authority of the president demands the observation of the Constitution down to the last point and that [Yeltsin] has to risk going to the elections and to try and win," he said. "The other one thinks that since the president has not always observed the constitution during the last five years, that he can risk postponing the elections under the pretext that this will contribute to stability."

But a postponement would create "major instability," said Kremenyuk.

Andrei Piontkowsky of the Moscow-based Institute for Strategic Studies said that Korzhakov's comments indicate "disarray and confusion" within the Yeltsin camp, and that the appeals for a compromise with the Communists, which he believes were initiated by Korzhakov, are undermining the president's campaign.

The Communists, he added, are unlikely to accept a compromise.

"For them, it's very important politically, and I would even say metaphysically, to reach a clear constitutional victory, not to come to power as the result of behind-the-scenes bargaining with Mr. Korzhakov and the bankers," he said.