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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin's Newest Ads Aim to Increase Turnout

Boris Yeltsin's second-round election strategy will focus on toning down the red scare and boosting appeals for a high turnout, but his team plans no special measures to woo Alexander Lebed's supporters, one of the president's campaign advisors said Tuesday.


In order to win a runoff against communist challenger Gennady Zyuganov, Yeltsin will need the majority of the 10 million votes cast for Lebed, who finished third in Sunday's first-round ballot. Lebed is a fervent nationalist whose "law and order" message is thought to have drained votes from Zyuganov and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.


But the president's team has apparently decided that Lebed's decision to join Yeltsin's government will bring in the votes without an ad campaign aimed specifically at his constituency.


"For them it's quite enough that Lebed himself does what he did today," Mikhail Margelov, director of the Video International advertising agency, which handles Yeltsin's campaign ads, said Tuesday.


Lebed told reporters after a Tuesday morning meeting with Yeltsin that he had cast his lot with the president because he represented "a new idea."


"I was facing two ideas -- an old one that has shed lots of blood and a new one that is being implemented very badly at the moment, but that has a future," he said, standing by Yeltsin's side as television cameras rolled. "I have chosen the new idea."


Instead of concentrating on anti-communist scare tactics, Margelov said the second campaign is likely to devote more attention to urging Russians to come to the polls, knowing that a high turnout is crucial if the president is to triumph.


Much, however, will depend last-minute political events. "Dramatic changes in ruling circles haven't finished yet. Everything will depend on these changes," Margelov said. "The commercials can be softer or harder. If the situation gets worse they'll be harder, if it gets better they'll be softer."


The essence of the campaign ads will be the same as during the first round, he said. "Ordinary Russians" will tell viewers how their lives have improved since Yeltsin came to power, and the stars will explain why he should lead the country.


But this time, Margelov said, the campaign will be much shorter than its predecessors, and its heroes and heroines more political. It will have two major themes.


"The first message is that if you don't come to vote, the destiny of your children will be determined by someone else," he said. "The second main message is still a secret."


Yeltsin himself is unlikely to make an appearance, because, with constant media coverage "we don't want to overfeed the electorate," Margelov said. But he promised "a secret weapon, which we will reveal about halfway through the campaign."


When that is likely to be is still unclear, since election day has not been set. The campaign kicks off one day after the Central Election Committee announces the official results of the first round, but television campaigns are to last only five working days, ending 24 hours before election day, a spokesman said.


Russia's three state television networks will allot 20 minutes of free airtime each weekday to candidates' campaign messages and both candidates may buy the same amount of paid advertising time.


In the first round, the communists spurned television advertising, concentrating on grass roots, "door-to-door and heart-to-heart" campaigning. But some communist insiders have hinted that the party is rethinking its strategy.


Margelov said Zyuganov has two or three advertisements, featuring the Communist leader on Red Square. A party spokeswoman refused to confirm or deny the report and ORT spokesman Alexei Pushkov said he had not heard of such commercials.