RUSSIAN President Boris Yeltsin succeeded in his attempt to
abolish the communist-dominated parliament, which had
systematically blocked his reform efforts. The elections for a new
legislature, scheduled for Dec. 12, 1993, can provide the
opportunity for democracy and reform to move forward. If
hard-liners were to win a majority, however, the election could be
a decisive setback for Mr. Yeltsin and the interests of the United
Although time is short, the Clinton administration can make a
positive, perhaps decisive contribution to helping the
pro-democratic political parties as they prepare for the coming
In the April 1993 referendum, Yeltsin received support from 58
percent of the Russians who voted. But fewer than half of the
population voted, and the hard-line communists and
ultranationalists have shown determination and cunning during the
last two years as they have maneuvered to recover from a series of
Having lost another round in October, they will see the coming
parliamentary election as an opportunity to obtain a working
majority and thereby relegate Yeltsin and the reformers to mere
The Communist Party of the Russian Federation has retained about
500,000 members. Whether or not it is allowed to participate
officially in the elections, its members will work for their
objectives through other parties.
By contrast, though many pro-democratic parties exist, in a
country of 160 million people none has a membership approaching
that of the Communist Party; most other parties have only a few
Besides the self-identified communist parties that demand a full
return to the old system, the hard-liners have also formed
political parties and groups that profess a much more moderate
course, calling themselves the "center" between the old-fashioned
communists of the past and the "heartless and ineffectual
capitalism" they say Yeltsin represents.
Their main vehicle most likely will be the existing coalition,
Russian Unity, headed by Sergei Baburin.
The hard-liners assume that they begin with a core of support
from about 30 percent of the voters, who backed their position in
the April 1993 referendum. In addition, hard-liners know that they
are supported by most of the communist managerial class in the
government ministries, the state factories, the military-industrial
complex, as well as by most of those who were in political
authority at the state, regional, and local levels.
As with the now-dissolved Russian legislature, virtually all of
these regional and local legislatures consisted of people who also
were chosen in 1989 and 1990, when the Communist Party still
determined the outcome of elections in the former Soviet Union.
The antireform forces might well support their candidates by
using all of their organizational resources: jobs, money, printing
presses, transportation, communications, and the like.
Further, they could use their connections with regional and
local governments throughout Russia to make it difficult in many
places for pro-democratic groups to function at all.
It also is quite possible that some hard-liners will be planning
secretly to rig vote-counting in the thousands of polling places
where their political allies could have control. …