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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Battle's Over, Back To the War

After all the bloodcurdling rhetoric of the early election campaign, after the concerns over turnout, how votes would transfer and the other nervous trappings of predicting an election as potentially world-shaking as Wednesday's, Boris Yeltsin's victory comes as a tremendous relief.


The return of Yeltsin by a considerable margin has minimalized the risk of a destructive attempt at reversing Russia's course, and that has to be welcome news. Equally important, the fact that the vote has gone as peacefully as it has suggests that this country is not condemned to resolve its political disputes in the streets.


We now know that Russia can, contrary to the belief of some eminent historians, have a normal, working democracy. What it chooses in the long term may be something quite different, but if so this will not be due to any predetermined national fate.


Another related gain is that the Communist Party has accepted defeat gracefully, despite some legitimate causes for them to feel that the elections were unfair. Especially in the period between the two votes, Gennady Zyuganov and other Communist leaders have made clear efforts to behave more like normal, smiling, flesh-pressing politicians and less like a grim revolutionary vanguard.


It seems that after the first-round result and Yeltsin's quick co-opting of Lebed, the Communist Party resigned itself to the fact that they were likely to lose and set about securing their future as a normal party of opposition.


But there are also some sour portions to the fruit of Yeltsin's victory that cannot be ignored and make the vote appear less decisive than was hoped. The first is that this has not been a fair election. The role of television has dramatically warped the information available to voters and may in the end have been decisive. Whatever the justifications for this, one has to wonder whether the media will be able to recover its lost independence.


The second sour point concerns the health of the president, which leaves a large question mark hanging over the future. It is hard to believe that Yeltsin missed the last part of the campaign, canceled high-profile meetings and voted near his dacha with only official cameras on hand because he had a sore throat. Yeltsin looked terrible both in his address to the nation Monday and as he voted Wednesday.


Now what? Will Yeltsin have the strength to drive the agenda in his new government and to control such powerful characters as Alexander Lebed? Not only must we now wait to see how Yeltsin interprets the mandate he has been given by the electorate, but also who will wield effective power in his new, second administration.