On the stage in the ornate Moscow House of Architecture's upstairs meeting hall, a phalanx of soberly dressed men and women listened distractedly while a hero of socialist labor told how his Moscow locomotiye station saved more than 10,000 kilovolts of electricity in 1978.
He talked of plans to exceed the 1979 plan and how some workers had dedicated themselves to achieving the goals of the current five-year plan by April of 1980, nine months ahead of schedule. Their specific target date is April 22, 1980, the 110th anniversary of the birth of Lenin.
An audience of perhaps 300 Moscow citizens, sitting beneath placards bearing the somber official photos of Leonid Brezhnev and his Kremlin colleagues, listened attentively, barely listened or dozed through the cascade of statistics from the hero before them.
The man was Sergei Yatskov, a redfaced, 52-year-old locomotive engineer, who as the nominee of the Bolshevik Candy Factory and other enterprises and collectives in his part of the city, is a freshman candidate for the Supreme Soviet, the U.S.S.R.'s rubberstamp parliament.
This is national election year here and along with Brehznev and his leadership, Yatskov and more than 1,500 other workers, factory hands and intellectuals are "running" for five-year terms.
Like the others, Yatskov, despite his relative obscurity, doesn't have to run very hard. In fact, like the politicians of any powerful, superbly funded, and pervasive political apparatus, Yatskov and the others could walk, crawl, or perhaps sleep through their campaigns and still wind up with enough votes to win.
He is the Communist Party's only candidate from his election district for the deputy's seat in the Soviet of the Union, one of two houses in the Supreme Soviet, which meets usually twice a year for a series of unanimous votes approving the policies of the party leadership.
Yatskov's district, called Krasnaya-Presinsky, includes about 250,000 of Moscow's 8 million citizens, Although among the current 1,517 members of the Supreme Soviet there are more than 400 who are not Communist Party members, none of the candidates or their predecessors ever had to run against an opponent for election.
Differences of opinion within the party cadres over nominees seldom surface. The candidates are chosen, continued or dropped from office in a process that occurs out of sight of the public, except in rare cases.
Yatskov indicated in an interview, for example, that he had no idea why his predecessor in the deputy's job, a woman form a weaving enterprise, had been withdrawn.
In his speech to the voters, who attended by invitation only, he asserted he would "apply all my knowledge and strength to justify your support... The whole pulse of the party is aimed at developing economic power. We welcome the election at the highest possible levels of our life."
He told how vast sums had been used for public services in recent times in the district, and boasted that "the best traditions of the working class are developed at our locomotive station. The Communist Party has created all the necessary conditions for the work of the Soviet people. Do everything to fulfill your civic duty."
There was applause when he mentioned Brezhnev's name and applause at the end of his 20-minute speech, one of about five similar speeches he will read to voter gatherings in the days between now and the March 4 election.
Yatskov, a party member since 1966, has 1,800 rubles (about $2,700) supplied him by the party as a campaign war chest. About the biggest question his campaign poses is how he can spend it all. There are no buttons, bumper stickers, press releases, campaign tours, embossed pencils, or any of the other items that make U.S. politicking the splashy process it is.
About the only concession to campaigning is the presence throughout Moscow election districts of small notices bearing official biographies and photos of the candidates. Yatskov, like virtually all the local candidates for the Supreme Soviet and unfailingly, all its leaders, has been the subject of an official article in the controlled press. His appeared in Izvestia last week.
Married and with two children, one of them also an engineer, Yatskov said he lives with his wife and one child in a two-room apartment, owns a Moskvich auto and has a small dacha in the country outside the city, where he likes to garden.
He seemed caught off-guard when one foreign correspondent asked him gently if he thought that as democracy developed here there might not be two or three or even more candidates running for the same office.
He pondered the question for a few moments while the professional party men flanking him at the press conference fidgeted, and then he declared in contradiction to all Communist doctrine about the solidarity and unity of social forces here, "If democracy develops, it is possible that there will be more than one candidate. There may be two or three..."
As for now, it is democracy Sovietstyle, and any resemblance it may bear to the real thing is purely deliberate.