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Yeltsin Prepares His Electoral Program

By Simon Saradzhyan and Jan de Weydenthal

Moscow, April 24 (RFE/RL) - President Boris Yeltsin is set to unveil in mid-May his program for re-election.

The program is likely to focus on a general electoral statement, covering Yeltsin's proposals for economic and other policies. But just before its publication the campaign will issue a "practical" question-and-answer booklet dealing with everyday problems faced by average Russians.

The booklet is to be issued under the title "One Hundred Questions and Answers." According to Viktor Borisyuk, former top political and economic analyst in a think tank attached to Yeltsin's office, the booklet is to deal primarily with basic "social protection issues and economic matters," but it is also to touch on some problems of Russia's relations with former Soviet republics. Those issues and problems "are on everybody's lips," said Borisyuk. The booklet will say what Yeltsin "will do when he is re-elected."

The booklet had been proposed by former Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Shakhrai, who regarded it as a tool for a simple and straightforward "dialogue" between Yeltsin and the voters.

It is to be addressed to ordinary Russians, particularly those suffering economic hardship and/or concerned with the fate of the post-Soviet Russia.

Many of these people have appeared ready to support the Communist candidate, Gennady Zyuganov. The booklet is designed to weaken that support and portray Yeltsin as determined to help those in need or in doubt.

Initially, the booklet was to be published this week. But the Yeltsin campaign officials decided yesterday to postpone the publication until mid-May. It is to be distributed then free of charge to prepare the public for the release of Yeltsin's formal electoral platform.

The publication of the booklet is seen by some analysts as a clever and important move, particularly if one considers that most voters might not bother to read formal electoral platforms. The "practical" question-and-answer brochure is more likely to reach them.

But promises create obligations. Vladimir Vereshagin, top analyst at the institute attached to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, has recently warned that Yeltsin should back promises to boost social protection with actual government measures, such as subsidies for pensioners and unemployed. Otherwise, Vereshagin said, "whatever you write in a book is likely to backfire in real life."

The government has been recently spending thousands of millions of rubles to pay delayed salaries and pensions. But the pensioners and workers demand still more.