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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed's First-Round Win Ruled Valid

Presidential hopeful Alexander Lebed looked on course to become governor of Krasnoyarsk region Wednesday when a local election commission ruled his surprise first-round victory was valid.

In a decision that will give the sacked presidential security adviser a further boost, the Krasnoyarsk Communist Party decided not to oppose Lebed in the second round.

Lebed set alarm bells ringing in the Kremlin when he cruised to an unexpectedly easy 45 percent to 35 percent win over pro-Kremlin incumbent Valery Zubov in last weekend's first round. Reports began to circulate that presidential aides, through the election commission, were conniving to have the first round ruled void and Lebed thrown off the ballot ahead of a second round runoff.

The Krasnoyarsk election committee had registered over 100 potential violations during a bruising five-week campaign between Lebed and Zubov.

After two days of deliberation, however, the election commission scheduled a runoff election between Lebed and Zubov for May 17.

Lebed has said he plans to use Krasnoyarsk, a vast industrial region deep in the mineral-rich heart of Siberia, as a launching pad for his run at the presidency in the 2000 elections.

The former parachutist, who equally dislikes President Boris Yeltsin and the Communists, said he would quit politics if his Krasnoyarsk campaign fails.

The local Communist Party plenum decided not to endorse Zubov or Lebed in the second round.

Communist candidate Pyotr Romanov took 13 percent of the vote: too little to go forward to the second round but enough to make him a potential king-maker in the runoff. Local observers predicted the Communists would endorse the incumbent's candidacy because Lebed -- an outsider who has never lived in Krasnoyarsk -- was seen as too dangerous for local politicians.

"We cannot support the party of power or Lebed," Communist campaign worker Zinaida Kazakova said. "We have advised our people to vote against both candidates, or simply not to vote at all."

Yakushenko, Lebed's press secretary, sounded confident about sweeping up the Communist votes. "I think the Communists will come out, but they will only cross off one name. And it won't be Lebed's," he said.

Lebed's camp also breathed a sigh of relief at Wednesday's news from the election committee.

"We have seen how the Kremlin helped nullify results in the past. But it looks like it did not work this time," said Lebed's press secretary, Vladimir Yakushenko.

He was referring to last month's election in Nizhny Novgorod, where the local elections committee voided a win by Andrei Klimentyev, a local businessman with a criminal record.

Days after Kremlin aides called Klimentyev's win a disgrace for Russian politics, Klimentyev was jailed and the election was declared invalid.

Altough many of the potential voting violations registered in Krasnoyarsk seemed trivial, several serious charges included accusations that the two camps were distributing false campaign literature in each others' name.