Zyuganov ‘Open’ to Allies as Yeltsin Campaign Roars Ahead
MOSCOW (AP) _ Communist presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov was fishing for new allies Wednesday, while other candidates tried to cut President Boris Yeltsin down to size by saying the war in Chechnya is not over.
Yeltsin’s campaign has been a bulldozer, piling up one propaganda coup after another ahead of the June 16 presidential vote. The most dramatic yet was his visit Tuesday to Chechnya, a day after meeting with the Chechen rebel leader and announcing a cease-fire.
The president has been gaining in polls, while Zyuganov’s support is staying the same or even decreasing. Many polls show Yeltsin neck-and-neck with Zyuganov or slightly ahead.
Even pollster Nugar Betaneli, who has consistently put Yeltsin farther behind than other pollsters, said Wednesday that in his new survey _ conducted before the latest events in Chechnya _ Zyuganov’s lead had been cut to 9 percentage points, down from 20, the Interfax news agency said. It gave no details of the poll.
Zyuganov, campaigning in the southern Russian city of Stavropol, told Interfax he had been contacted by representatives of candidates trying to set up a ``Third Force,″ and that he had ``left the door open for everyone.″
Candidates Grigory Yavlinsky, Alexander Lebed and Svyatoslav Fyodorov _ all of whom trail in the polls _ have talked about uniting into a ``Third Force″ against Yeltsin and Zyuganov.
Zyuganov said ``nothing sensible″ could come of that, but that if other candidates joined him he could win the 50 percent needed for a first-round victory.
Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, however, made a unique appeal to Zyuganov to form a coalition with him and Lebed.
``Zyuganov still has time to fall on his knees before me and Lebed for the sake of a stunning victory,″ he said.
Speaking earlier in the day on television, Zhirinovsky appealed for votes from anti-Communists and emphasized that he never belonged to the Communist Party.
Yavlinsky, a reformist candidate who has condemned Yeltsin for the war, charged that the president could not control the army.
``The war is going on because the military do not fulfill orders,″ Yavlinsky said in a radio campaign spot.
Aggressively pursuing Russia’s huge military vote, Yeltsin promised broad state aid Wednesday for the cash-poor defense industry.
Yeltsin also signed a decree on the early discharge of conscripts who served in Chechnya and in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic where Russian troops are propping up a hard-line government.