Yeltsin calls outcome of elections a reprimand

December 23, 1993|By New York Times News Service

MOSCOW -- President Boris N. Yeltsin described Russia's surprising parliamentary elections as a major reprimand and said yesterday that his government would give more attention to the problems of the poor.

Conducting an hourlong news conference, Mr. Yeltsin said that he would not change his economic team or its reform program but that he would broaden the information channels to his office and foster dialogue between officials and the public in keeping with a "new, more open style."

Mr. Yeltsin acknowledged the successes of those who had used primitive nationalism, outright lies and even dangerous provocations," but he avoided direct criticism of the person he saw as the major beneficiary of those tactics, Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky.

Even while Mr. Yeltsin sought to put the most benign face on the results of the Dec. 12 elections, he occasionally betrayed concern. One instance was when asked about the success of Mr. Zhirinovsky and his Liberal Democratic Party in drawing votes from the military.

"Certainly not the biggest part of the armed forces voted for the LDP, but one-third did vote for it," he said, revealing a fact not reported before. "Even so, this is a sizable portion, and we are worried about it, and appropriate measures are already being taken." He did not specify these measures.

Mr. Zhirinovsky party took about 24 percent of the party-list vote nationwide, so it appeared that a larger proportion of military men than civilians supported the party.

Overall, Mr. Yeltsin struck an upbeat tone, portraying the large vote for nationalists and Communists as an expression of public frustration, but denying that the election was a debacle or a blow to Russia's fledgling democracy. "To be disappointed with democracy would mean to lose hope," Mr. Yeltsin said.

Mr. Yeltsin highlighted himself and his newly strengthened role as the chief arbiter of Russia's fate and as the guarantor of democracy. He said he would stay in office through the end of his term in June 1996.

Acknowledging that there are similarities between the Russia of today and the Germany of the early 1930s, where national humiliation and poverty led to the growth of Nazism, Mr. Yeltsin said:

"But the key thing that Germany did not have and what we have is a president and a constitution that is standing on guard against fascism."

Mr. Yeltsin said his foreign policy would not change. But in an apparent bow to the nationalist sentiments revealed in the vote for Zhirinovsky party, he took some unusual swipes at the United States and Japan.

Mr. Yeltsin defended his decision not to support any single bloc or party in the election. He said he would likewise not side with any one party in Parliament.

But he announced that he would now form a presidential party.

In a related development, the International Monetary Fund said that it will send experts to Moscow next month to help Russia rework its social safety net to assist the poor, the elderly and the unemployed cope with the pain of economic reform.

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