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Voting Chaotic in Vladivostok

September 27, 1998

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (AP) _ Election officials pronounced Vladivostok’s long-delayed mayoral vote valid, despite complaints that the leading candidate had been stricken from Sunday’s ballot at the last minute.

The chaotic election capped a campaign dominated by the bitter rivalry between city and regional leaders.

As voters arrived at some polling stations Sunday morning, election officials were still scrambling to cross the names of two disqualified candidates off the ballots: incumbent Mayor Viktor Cherepkov, the leading candidate, and Vladimir Murashov.

A city court ruled Thursday that Cherepkov could not run because he had illegally paid for his campaign with city money, while Murashov was barred because of anti-Semitic statements.

The commission instructed polling stations to strike both names from the ballots just six hours before polls were to open. That left voters with 12 lesser-known candidates to choose from.

``Why did they remove Cherepkov? I don’t understand. This is a completely illegal election,″ said Galina Ivanova, an agitated 70-year-old voter who is representative of the mayor’s loyal following of mostly senior citizens.

Some disgruntled citizens scattered photocopied leaflets around the city urging people not to vote at all.

Still, many of Vladivostok’s 800,000 residents turned out for the vote. By the time polls closed at 10 p.m., nearly 40 percent of voters had cast ballots, making the election valid, said Ilya Grinchenko, chairman of the city election commission. Official results were expected on Tuesday.

President Boris Yeltsin’s representative in the region, Viktor Kondratov, appealed to Yeltsin on Saturday to leave Cherepkov on the ballot in order to prevent unrest, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

Kondratov charged that eliminating Cherepkov would raise people’s general level of discontent, causing them to be more inclined to support communists and their hard-line allies in a national protest on Oct. 7 against Yeltsin.

Vladivostok’s mayoral election has been delayed for months as Cherepkov has feuded with regional governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko. Cherepkov’s term expired on July 5.

The regional government had Cherepkov ousted in 1994, only to see him reinstated by Yeltsin two years later. The regional parliament, backed by Nazdratenko, tried to throw out Cherepkov last September _ again unsuccessfully.

Since taking office in 1993, Cherepkov, a former military man, has launched an energetic campaign to build roads. However, the city’s economy has continued to decline, with doctors, ambulance workers and teachers on strike.

Many of the candidates campaigned on pledges to restore law and order to the port, where crime and corruption have soared.

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