Russia: Yeltsin and the Spin Doctors

THE FIRST, EARLY STIRRINGS OF THE 1996 presidential campaign are beginning in Russia. But following the wildly unpopular military campaign in Chechnya, President Boris Yeltsin’s rating in public opinion polls has dropped to its lowest level ever. According to a Russian Public Opinion Center poll conducted on 10-14 March, only 8 percent of those polled have confidence in Yeltsin “completely or in general.” This figure is drastically lower than last September’s 58 percent.1 Moreover, if an election were held in the near future, Yeltsin would be unlikely to win, according to a panel of experts queried by Nezavisimaya gazeta at the end of January. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and Yabloko bloc chief Grigory Yavlinsky all ranked higher than the incumbent.2