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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Losers Accept With Gloom, But Grace

The mood at Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov's election campaign headquarters was hardly jubilant as the results started to flow in Wednesday night, showing Boris Yeltsin in a commanding lead. But the loss was accepted with surprising calm and grace.


Surprising, because during the campaign there had been much talk of the Communists' parallel count and of threats that their tens of millions of supporters might take to the streets if they felt they had been cheated.


And Anatoly Lukyanov, one of Zyuganov's top deputies, did rather defiantly insist that the defeat of Zyuganov did not mean a defeat for communism, saying that: "Even God cannot defeat the idea of communism."


But Lukyanov also said the communists had detected no major voting violations, even if he did add that, "We did not count on the unpardonable behavior of the mass media" in supporting Yeltsin throughout the campaign.


Lukyanov said the party would perform its own vote count by gathering up results from each of the country's 97,000 local precincts. He said that would take about 10 days to do, and if it conflicted with the official tally the Communists would sue at the Supreme Court. "We would act only within the bounds of the law," he said.


But Lukyanov portrayed that parallel vote count as a mere formality, and said that "if it checks out, then the People's Patriotic Bloc will not have any grounds to challenge the results."


The Zyuganov headquarters for the evening was a small, three-story building belonging to Spiritual Heritage, a nationalist organization. Leaders of Zyuganov's bloc, including Lukyanov and former vice president Alexander Rutskoi, forlornly for someone worth interviewing.


Although national security adviser Alexander Lebed was expected at Itar-Tass, neither he nor Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov nor Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin put in an appearance there or anywhere else.


Nor -- despite some vague talk on NTV television of 100 bottles of champagne cooling somewhere in the cellars at Tass -- was there any food, drink, music or decorations to speak of.


In fact, neither Yeltsin nor Zyuganov made a public appearance at their respective campaign headquarters.


The evening may have been so low-key out of memory of the debacle of the 1993 parliamentary elections, when a no-holds-barred, nationally televised Kremlin banquet had to be pulled off of the air in despair when Vladimir Zhirinovsky's nationalists cleaned up on acting prime minister Yegor Gaidar's Russia's Democratic Choice.


Instead of balloons and hurrahs, on Wednesday night Yeltsin's campaign team indulged in musings about the future spider's net of relations between Zyuganov and his bloc, between Yeltsin and Lebed, and between the Kremlin and the State Duma.


However, the president's health remained an unwelcome topic at Yeltsin headquarters, raised again after the president left several hundred journalists waiting for him to vote at his scheduled polling station, visiting instead a station near his dacha.


"Except for the Western press, nobody in Moscow, in Russia, sees this as an issue," said Yeltsin campaign official Vyacheslav Nikonov. "Why should you ask this question? He just won the election!"


Anpilov, however, could not resist a few cracks about Yeltsin's apparently failing health. "Yeltsin has long ruled the Kremlin with one foot in the grave," he said. "Remember Brezhnev, did he look bad on television? No, he was beautiful, just fine. They just adjust the camera focus a bit. Even Lebed is shown looking quite handsome, and I understand how hard that is to do."


Nikonov said Lebed had been "quite instrumental" in Yeltsin's victory, but now would be reined in.


Lebed "will play a constructive role in the future government. By far, though, the first two weeks of his career as a member of the administration he was playing as an individual. Now I think he will join the team and be more of a team player," Nikonov said. "He will be more in line with the administration of Mr. Yeltsin, who is of course the more powerful politician."


Nikonov said Lebed's hardline rhetoric had been a campaign device.


"Lebed was saying many things that are appealing to his electorate, and that was quite justifiable, he campaigned correctly," he said. "I am sure that being a member of the team he will now make his views more commonsense."


Yeltsin's political adviser Georgy Satarov and Nikonov both said they expected Zyuganov's People's Patriotic Bloc would disintegrate following his defeat.


Lukyanov said the bloc would remain a force and that Zyuganov would remain in charge of it, but he added, "No doubt some [members of the bloc] will leave."


He said the Communists and their allies were already preparing for elections to local offices in Russia's regions, and also already had prepared amendments to the Constitution to force Yeltsin to transfer some of his powers to the prime minister and the parliament.


"God help them with that," laughed Nikonov. "It's very hard to amend the Russian Constitution, and Mr. Lukyanov knows that better than many."


Although Lukyanov argued that Yeltsin ought to form a true coalition government and share power with the Communists, he did not seem to believe it would happen. At Yeltsin headquarters, there was little talk of that at all. Instead, there was discussion of wresting away the Duma speaker's chair from communist Gennady Seleznyov.


Zyuganov's bloc will hold a congress "in the nearest days" to discuss the election's outcome, Lukyanov said. Rutskoi, whose Derzhava party is part of the bloc, said Derzhava would decide at a meeting in August whether to remain. Anpilov said "task No. 1" would be "the creation of a united Communist Party, a purged party of dedicated Leninists."