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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leading Women Back Yeltsin's Bid

With just over a week to go until Russians return to the voting booths, Russia's leading women politicians came out in support of their candidate Monday, throwing their support to Boris Yeltsin.

At a press conference at the Central House of Journalists, politicians from across the political spectrum -- many of whom have had their disagreements with the Yeltsin administration in the past -- voiced their reasons for backing the president.

"Reforms can only exist in this country if there is democratic power and a system of balancing power," said State Duma deputy Irina Khakamada, who is co-founder of the Common Cause party. Khakamada was joined by fellow deputies Yekaterina Lakhova of the Women of Russia movement, Yabloko's Yelena Mizulina, and Galina Starovoitova, one of the founders of Democratic Russia.

"A communist return to power would mean economic chaos," said Khakamada, referring to the party's repeated calls for nationalizing private property. "Capital is leaving the country. Investment plans are falling. No restructuring of the tax system, no matter how radical, will help as long as the political risks are greater than the commercial ones."

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov publicly stated over the weekend that he would appeal to Russia's most vulnerable voters -- out-of-work and underemployed women -- to support him in his bid for the presidency. Women account for more than 70 percent of Russia's unemployed, leading to a situation women's rights activists call "the feminization of poverty."

Zyuganov may be counting on disaffection with the current system to win him votes among women, but politicians like Lakhova will try to counteract his efforts.

In the little time remaining before the July 3 vote, she and her colleagues will be hopping on planes and meeting with local women's audiences to get out the vote for Yeltsin.

"Those in power only care about women at election time," said Lakhova. "They go to regions where unemployment is high. But they don't mention the fact that factories stand idle because old machinery has to be upgraded and there is no demand for their product.

"For 75 years the communists lied to women, and they will do so again," she added.

According to the results of the first round of elections, there was an even split among women and male supporters for the top two candidates. "Gender didn't play a role in the first round of election results," said Lev Gubkov of VTsIOM, the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion. "If anything, women are slightly more inclined to vote for Yeltsin than Zyuganov."

But politicians such as Lakhova are not taking any chances with the numbers.

"My house, my family and my country is in danger today," said Lakhova, who leaves for Siberia on Tuesday to meet with regional women's groups.

"When left on their own, women make reasonable decisions, but I find it offensive that a political party is using women for its own purposes just so they can lie to them again," said Lakhova.