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Russia: Opposition Communists Make Gains In Regional Elections

Moscow, 9 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Opposition Communists appear to have scored several victories in yesterday's gubernatorial elections held in ten regions across Russia. The elections are part of an on-going series of local polls whose aim is to to popularly elect all of Russia's regional leaders by the start of next year.

Preliminary results show Communist candidates captured four of yesterday's ten contested regions, while candidates backed by the Kremlin won only two regions. In addition, Communist candidates lead in two of the the four remaining regions, where a second round of balloting is to be held. Early returns show Communist governors winning the central regions of Vladimir, Bryansk and Voronezh and the Urals region of Kurgan. Communist candidates lead in the northwestern Kostroma and central Ryazan regions, where there will be runoff elections.

The only Kremlin-supported, incumbent governors who won re-election were the head of the Far Eastern Khabarovsk region and the southern Astrakhan region. Run-offs are expected in the northern Arkhangelsk region and the Urals Perm region.

Correspondents say the elections could effect the balance of power in Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council. All the newly-elected governors will have a seat in the chamber, most of whose members were previously appointed by President Boris Yeltsin. With more than half the scheduled local elections now held, Communist-backed and Kremlin-supported candidates are about evenly split.