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DATE=3/20/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA ELECTION / CANDIDATES NUMBER=5-45686 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Twelve candidates will face voters in Russia's presidential election next Sunday. But only one, Acting President Vladimir Putin, is given any chance of winning. The likely second-place finisher, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, is given only a fair chance of forcing a runoff. V-O-A's Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports many of the other candidates appear to be running just for the publicity. TEXT: Acting President Putin chided his 11 opponents last week, in effect questioning the wisdom of challenging him. /// PUTIN ACT IN RUSSIAN-ESTABLISH, FADE UNDER /// He says, "It would be senseless to join the campaign if you do not believe you will win." Mr. Putin can afford such displays of confidence. As acting president, he dominates the state-run television channels that have a near monopoly on Russian public opinion. Political analysts say former President Boris Yeltsin's shock resignation last New Year's Eve was aimed at making 100-percent sure his chosen heir, Vladimir Putin, would win the election to succeed him. Nikolai Petrov of the Moscow Carnegie Center calls it a clear attempt to subvert the democratic process. /// 1st PETROV ACT /// From the very beginning, it was [an] election about how to keep the powers, not how to transfer the power, due to Mr. Yeltsin's resignation. And that's why the campaign is almost invisible. /// END ACT /// With just days to go before the vote, there is little evidence of a campaign on the streets of Moscow. Television stations are broadcasting campaign ads. But Mr. Putin rejected an offer of free airtime, saying he finds advertising repulsive. Other candidates, meanwhile, complain that controversial ads are being banned. Economist Grigory Yavlinsky, running a distant third in the polls, says a TV commercial he prepared warning of the dangers of a return to totalitarian rule was rejected by the state-run channels. // OPT // In a recent interview, Mr. Yavlinsky explained that he ran for the presidency four years ago in hopes of speeding up Russia's transition to a market economy. This time, he says, he just hopes to prevent the country from going backward to its Soviet past. /// YAVLINSKY ACT /// Now we have another picture. We have a successor who greets [takes] the power from the deal with Mr. Yeltsin, and at that time it was a race which was giving me a possibility to accelerate the reforms. Now it's a race to stop the militarization of the country. /// END ACT /// /// END OPT /// Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, the only candidate given a chance of making it to a second round, has struggled to find an issue with which to attack the frontrunner. In his latest TV commercial, the Communist candidate paints Mr. Putin as inheriting the corruption and decline of the Yeltsin years. And, in an ironic twist, he also warns of a return to totalitarianism. /// ZYUGANOV ACT IN RUSSIAN-ESTABLISH, FADE UNDER /// Mr. Zyuganov says, "The regime of Yeltsin's heir brings you poverty and death, dictatorship and the spread of violence." Mr. Zyuganov then adds, "That's what you will face if you let them cheat you." Other candidates echo similar themes. Konstantin Titov, a free-market advocate and governor of Russia's prosperous Samara region, says his campaign's main goal is to stop a Putin takeover. /// TITOV ACT IN RUSSIAN-ESTABLISH, FADE UNDER /// He says, "Why am I running? Because Russia cannot be handed down as somebody's heritage. We are not a democracy of slaves." But those slogans seem to have failed to catch on with large numbers of Russian voters. Analyst Nikolai Petrov says many Russians see Vladimir Putin simply as a man capable of providing order, even if it means a turn away from democracy. /// 2ND PETROV ACT /// The choice, which was already made, never was the choice between more democracy and less democracy. It was the choice between strengthening of the state, which is symbolized by Mr. Putin, and the further weakening of the state, which could easily turn the country toward chaos [and] anarchy. /// END ACT /// // OPT // Some political observers say the low single-digit ratings of many of the candidates suggest that their only interest in running is the free television airtime they can use to promote themselves. // END OPT // Acting President Putin's message of a strong, proud state is clearly dominating the electoral debate. His opponents may cry foul, they may call him names, but in the end they seem to be doomed to be also-rans. (Signed) NEB/PFH/GE/WTW 20-Mar-2000 13:59 PM EDT (20-Mar-2000 1859 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .