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Voters Rebuff Kremlin Clout In Russia’s First Gubernatorial Election

August 21, 1995

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AP) _ Voters in Boris Yeltsin’s home district rejected the Kremlin-backed candidate in Russia’s first gubernatorial race, news reports said today.

Many observers see the race as a bellwether for the December parliamentary elections. If it is, the so-called ``party of power″ may be in for some rough seas.

Voters in the Sverdlovsk region gave an old foe of the president’s, Eduard Rossel, a resounding 60 percent of their support in the runoff Sunday against Alexei Strakhov, the Yeltsin-appointed incumbent.

Strakhov, ran on the ticket of the Kremlin’s new party, Our Home: Russia, which is widely known as the ``party of power.″

The ITAR-Tass news agency said votes from all but a few rural districts had been counted by this morning and final returns were expected later in the day. It said the turnout was 33 percent.

Yeltsin fired Rossel in 1993 for trying to form an autonomous republic in the Ural Mountains region. Rossel, now a member of parliament, still advocates more economic independence from Moscow.

Strakhov stands for closer ties to the center and supports the federal government’s economic reforms.

Our Home pulled out all the stops in his costly campaign, which was backed by dozens of banks and businesses.

There were political consultants and rock concerts, posters and placards, dancing girls and marching bands. Strakhov reportedly outspent his opponent more than 3-to-1.

Yeltsin appoints regional leaders in keeping with Soviet practice but made an exception for the Sverdlovsk region, presumably because he was confident his man would win.

The region is an industrial powerhouse, but a troubled one. Thousands of defense plant workers have been put on unpaid leave and the government owes back wages to thousands more.

The regional capital, Yekaterinburg, is home to 1.5 million people and was a political hotbed even in Soviet times. Yeltsin was the local Communist Party boss for nearly a decade before being elevated to the party Central Committee in Moscow in 1985.

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