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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

First-Round Losers Cast Bitter Ballots

COMBINED REPORTS


The also-rans and fall guys of the first round of Russia's presidential elections cast their ballots in the decisive second round Wednesday, with some prominent ex-candidates rejecting both of the remaining choices.


Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, defeated in the June 16 voting, made a rare common cause as they cast their second-round votes against both President Boris Yeltsin and Communist challenger Gennady Zyuganov.


Meanwhile, one of the most prominent victims of the first-round fallout, ex-Defense Minister General Pavel Grachev, made his first public comments since being sacked in a power struggle with new security chief Alexander Lebed.


"Today we have elections without a choice," Gorbachev, who introduced democratic reforms during the tempestuous years of his rule in the Soviet Union, told Interfax after voting.


Gorbachev said neither Boris Yeltsin, who turned him out of the Kremlin in 1991, nor his Communist challenger Gennady Zyuganov, had what it took to rule.


"Neither candidate has the backup, or the human resources or the program to rule," Interfax quoted him as saying.


Gorbachev finished the first round of voting with less than one-half of one percent of the total vote.


Zhirinovsky, who came fifth in the first round with almost six percent, held up his ballot paper to journalists to show how he had crossed the third option -- "against all candidates."


Although uncharacteristically quiet at first, the voluble nationalist, who poor first-round showing put a dent in his reputation as a spokesman for the disaffected, returned to form after exiting the polling place.


"These boards are like our democracy," he told Interfax, edging his way over wobbly planks put down across a puddle of summer rainwater.


"But before we had that," he screeched, pointing at the water which had collected from a spate of heavy downpours. "And we had to ford it."


Grachev, despite his fall from power, professed loyalty to the man who fired him two weeks ago. "I do not change my views and affections," the longtime Yeltsin ally said after casting his ballot.


Grachev had few words for Alexander Lebed, the retired general whose appointment as Yeltsin's national security chief prompted Grachev's departure.


He denied Lebed's claim that he and his cronies were plotting a coup attempt after Lebed's appointment. Yeltsin fired seven top generals -- all Grachev allies -- last week for their role in the alleged plot.


He said he will be on vacation until September, then let "the president decide on my future job." ()