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    Russia 'Will Not Leave Road of Reform'

    By David Hoffman
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Thursday, December 21, 1995; Page A01

    MOSCOW, DEC. 20 -- President Boris Yeltsin vowed today that Russia "will not leave the road of reform," despite major gains made by the Communist Party in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

    "We have no reason to worry or assess the elections as a tragedy," the Interfax news agency quoted Yeltsin as saying at the government health resort, Barvikha, where he is recuperating from a heart ailment.

    Yeltsin said he could work with a parliament in which the Communists are the largest single faction. With about 75 percent of the vote counted, the Central Election Commission said today that the Communists have received 21 percent of the vote.

    By most estimates, Communists and nationalists will control 40 to 45 percent of the seats in the 450-member lower house of parliament, the State Duma. Under the terms of the 1993 Russian constitution, however, the lion's share of power resides in the presidency.

    "I'm sure that the majority of Russians don't stand for communism," Yeltsin said. "In some countries . . . there are more Communists in parliaments, but there they find ways of interaction and normal democratic development."

    Yeltsin's comments followed by a day similar remarks by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who said there would be no major shifts in government policy in response to the elections. The constitution does not require Yeltsin to adjust the government after a parliamentary election; it has been widely predicted, however, that Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, who was elected to parliament from an individual district, would resign his diplomatic post shortly.

    The Communists, encouraged by the election results, are stepping up the pressure on Yeltsin. Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, in his second news conference in two days, demanded a change in course. "The elections were in effect a vote of no confidence in the government," Zyuganov said. "With such a level of confidence, they will be unable to continue the current policy."

    Zyuganov added that "anticommunism in Russia has been finally defeated in the course of the election."

    Meanwhile, election officials continued to release partial results, three days after the balloting. Half the Duma's seats are being filled by votes for party lists, the other half by votes for individuals to represent specific districts.

    In second place behind the Communists in party balloting is Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultranationalist party with 10.89 percent of the vote. Chernomyrdin's party, Our Home is Russia, is third with 9.98 percent, and the reformist party Yabloko follows with 7.27 percent.

    About half the electorate cast their votes for other parties. But so far, none of the other parties has crossed the minimum 5 percent barrier to gain one of the 225 seats allocated on the basis of party-list voting -- meaning Russians who voted for those parties' lists will not have their views represented in the Duma.

    The commission said counting was almost complete in the 225 individual districts. Among them, 77 winners were independents; 57 were nominated by the Communist Party; 20 by the anti-reform Agrarian Party; 14 by Yabloko; 10 by Chernomyrdin's party; 9 by the reformist Russia's Choice party, headed by former prime minister Yegor Gaidar; 8 by the Power to the People bloc of former Soviet prime minister Nikolai Ryzhkov; 5 by the Congress of Russian Communities, the party of former army general Alexander Lebed; and the others by smaller parties.

    The winners include 93 incumbents and seven members of the upper chamber, the Federation Council, according to Interfax.

    Yeltsin has led the nation along a path of privatization and free markets, and analysts say his consistently low ratings in opinion polls can be attributed to the economic hardships his reforms have fostered. The Communists appealed to the nostalgia of many older voters for the order and predictability of the Soviet system.

    Two party leaders who did poorly, Lebed and former Russian vice president Alexander Rutskoi, told the Reuter news service that they suspect widespread rigging of the results. "What has happened is clearly falsification," said Lebed, who many predicted would emerge from the vote as a major political force. However, international monitors said they did not observe systematic falsification, only episodic instances of mistakes and irregularities.

    At the same time, some Western observers have asked why the count is taking so long. Russian officials are using a new computerized system that is not yet perfected but which is being readied for use in next June's presidential election.

    © Copyright 1995 The Washington Post Company

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