Vladimir Zhirinovsky, relishing his party’s strong showing in parliamentary elections, declared Tuesday that he will become Russia’s next president and do away with Western-style economic and democratic reforms.
Rambling and sarcastic, Zhirinovsky heaped scorn on the government of President Boris Yeltsin, the West, and potential supporters alike during a long press conference.
“No one will dictate his will to us. Don’t you worry about that. We can and we will, by the year 1999 … take over all the remains of the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” Zhirinovsky said.
While pollsters give him little chance of winning the presidential race, his success demonstrates the wide-open nature of the Russian political system in the wake of Sunday’s national elections, in which weary and impoverished voters overwhelmingly backed Communists and nationalists.
The unexpectedly slow vote count left the final composition of Russia’s new Parliament unclear Tuesday, two days after the elections. What was clear was an impressive lead by the Communists.
By Tuesday night, with an estimated 60 percent of the vote counted, the Communists had received 21.5 percent of the vote. which will be used to allocate half of the 450 seats in Russia’s lower house of parliament, or Duma.
Zhirinovsky’s party, projected by pollsters to fare poorly, came in second with 10.8 percent. Next was the centrist pro-government party, Our Home is Russia, with 9.7 percent, followed by the reformist bloc Yabloko with 7.7 percent.