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Russia: Returns From Duma Elections Nearly Complete

Moscow, 21 December 1999 (RFE/RL) -- With final election results expected by tonight, Russian President Boris Yeltsin has met with election officials, telling them the way is now open for presidential polls in June. The head of the Central Election Commission, Aleksander Veshnyakov, said Yeltsin promised to sign a decree signaling the start of the presidential campaign before the end of this year. The decree was already approved by the outgoing state Duma but still needs the approval of the Federation Council. The last figures released by the elections commission, with just over 91 percent of the vote counted, showed the Communist Party with 24.5 percent of the vote, maintaining their slight lead over the pro-Kremlin Unity bloc, which has 23.8 percent. The Fatherland-All Russia bloc has 11.9 percent, the Union of Rightist Forces 8.6, the nationalist Zhirinovsky bloc 6.1 and Yabloko 5.9. None of the other parties cleared the five-percent barrier to enter the Duma.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with leaders of the blocs clearing the barrier to say he hoped the government and the new Duma will work effectively together. Putin said the fact that 75 percent of the incoming deputies are new to the Duma is a good indication of the level of democracy involved in Sunday's elections.

Meanwhile, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov today complained about elections, claiming gross violations had been committed in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and in Samara, Tula and Saratov regions. Zyuganov said intitial reports from Tatarstan indicated the Communists had taken 43 percent of the vote but more recent reports say only 18 pecrcent.

Zyuganov also said since his party gathered more votes than any other single party it was the right of the Communists to propose the next Duma chairman.