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Muscovites, Young and Old, Experience First Real Elections With AM-Soviet-Election, Bjt

March 26, 1989

MOSCOW (AP) _ Three-year-old Sasha’s parents leaned down and asked the young Muscovite attired in a snowsuit who is his favorite candidate. ″Yeltsin 3/8″ their son exclaimed.

Most adults voting at Moscow polling station No. 74 were as definite about their choice, and optimistic about what Sunday’s multicandidate elections mean. ″I think the quality of our leaders will improve because now we have a real democracy,″ said Dr. Valentina Agababova as she sat on a windowsill and crossed out names of candidates she was voting against. Previously the Communist Party allowed only one candidate for each seat.

″Once upon a time, we’d just take the forms and throw them into the ballot box. Now, for the first time, we’re really voting,″ she said.

The choice for the Moscow city seat between maverick communist Boris N. Yeltsin and his opponent, automobile factory director Yevgeny Brakov, seemed clear-cut: Of 50 voters interviewed around Moscow on Sunday, 42 said they voted for Yeltsin - ″naturally,″ said one. Only two said they chose Brakov.

But at polling station No. 74 in southern Moscow, a separate district race slowed the process.

A small line formed before red-curtained voting booths and voters decided between a dozen candidates for the new Congress of People’s Deputies, including a television commentator, a professor of philosophy, a renowned military historian and a cosmonaut.

Candidates have wooed voters over the past two months through election meetings and television appearances. As Soviets made their choice, the state media went into high gear. But they offered bland fare by U.S. standards, lacking the pizazz of high-tech U.S. network coverage. Absent were early returns from the Soviet Far East, where the polls closed two hours after polls opened in Moscow. Complete election results are not expected until April 5.

Many Soviets, however, said television was indispensable in helping them make their choices.

″I decided who to vote for in my local election as a result of the televised debates. My choice seemed more intelligent and had a more pleasing face; I guess it’s the same reason many Americans voted for Reagan,″ said a 37-year-old Moscow woman who declined to give her name.

In the televised ″debates,″ as they were called, candidates gave speeches or answered reporters’ questions. They seldom engaged in exchanges with their rivals.

A poll published Saturday showed 38 percent of 2,000 respondents to a questionnaire in Moskovskaya Pravda newspaper criticized the media for lack of depth.

Poll results published Saturday by the newspaper left out what Westerners would consider the main question: Which candidate will you vote for?

The newspaper said 85 percent of respondents did want to give their choice. ″But it would have been tactless to assess the chances of candidates a day before the election,″ the Communist Party newspaper said.

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