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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed's Bloc Wins in Bellwether Region

The fortunes of presidential hopeful Alexander Lebed got a boost Sunday when supporters of the former paratrooper made a strong showing in local elections in Krasnoyarsk region, a traditional bellwether for Russia's political mood.

In other elections over the weekend, Primorsky territory Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko suffered a blow as supporters of his arch foe, the mayor of Vladivostok, won seats in the regional legislature.

Preliminary results showed Lebed's Honor and Motherland movement came from nowhere to become the second-biggest party in Krasnoyarsk's 41-seat regional legislature, with five seats and a good chance of winning three more later. The Communist Party, traditionally strong there, was the overall victor with eight seats, Itar-Tass reported Monday.

Commentators say the success of Lebed's bloc presages a strong showing for the former general's movement in the 1999 State Duma elections and in the presidential elections in 2000.

Already the bloc boasts offices in almost every one of Russia's regions and in June scored a coup by getting its candidate elected as mayor of the Volga city of Samara. It is now widely expected to oust Vladimir Zhirinovsky's nationalist Liberal Democratic Party as the third force in the Duma, parliament's lower house, behind the Communists and the pro-government Our Home Is Russia bloc.

Sunday's result is not final: polling will be repeated later in the month to elect 21 deputies running from constituencies where no candidate polled more than 50 percent. But Lebed's candidates lead in three constituencies and are expected to seal victory in the second round.

Running on an anti-corruption platform, Lebed finished third in the first round of the 1996 presidential election behind President Boris Yeltsin and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. Yeltsin then co-opted him by naming him president of the government's Security Council, but fired him a few months after winning re-election.

In previous presidential and parliamentary elections, voting in Krasnoyarsk region, in western Siberia, has been almost a mirror image of the result in the country as a whole. In an indication of the significance of Sunday's poll, Lebed, Zyuganov and liberal Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky all traveled to the region to stump for their candidates.

In the Primorsky territory on Russia's Pacific coast, supporters of Nazdratenko suffered defeats across the board. Interfax reported that communists won 14 seats in the 39-seat legislature, while Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov's Our City bloc took eight seats.

The result is a body-blow for the governor who is locked in a long-running battle to unseat Cherepkov, said Nikolai Petrov, expert on regional politics with the Carnegie Moscow Center. "In his conflict with Cherepkov, the regional Duma took the side of the governor," said the analyst. "Now it looks like his position in the legislature is weakened."