CAMPAIGNS: JUDGE AND JURY; Boris beats the odds by banking on the honesty factor

Boris Yeltsin has defied political forecasts by apparently endearing himself to the Russian electorate with his ‘warts and all’ approach at the same time as shifting the blame to others, says public affairs consultant Hugh Colver

Boris Yeltsin has defied political forecasts by apparently endearing

himself to the Russian electorate with his ‘warts and all’ approach at

the same time as shifting the blame to others, says public affairs

consultant Hugh Colver



So John Major, now you know. As an incumbent of high office, dependent

on the vagaries of democratic process, all you need when under threat at

election time is a history of behaving badly in public, constant

suggestions that you are ‘with drink’ on state occasions, a consistent

and apparently near terminal health problem, and a penchant for goosing

female staff in public.



And then, under the Yeltsin rules, just when everyone thinks you are

still going to lose, you sideline trusted allies close enough to be

tennis and drinking partners in favour of one of the candidates standing

against you. Oh, and I nearly forgot, you have to be fighting a bloody

internal war, and fail to pay your civil servants because tax revenues

are 40 per cent below projections.



Boris Yeltsin’s now near certain victory in the Russian presidential

election is a remarkable story. Received wisdom not so long ago was that

the country would return to a kind of Communism. The people had had

quite enough of reform, it was said, and wanted to get back to the

‘certainties’ of the old regime.



Yet Yeltsin has won through and we should look at his formula. His

success has, after all, not happened by chance and the techniques have

really been quite simple.



He has cashed in on the simple fact that, despite it all, most people

could not bring themselves to vote for a return to the old order. And

because 70 years of Soviet propaganda has made the Russian electorate

one of the most sceptical in the world, Yeltsin adopted the warts and

all approach. He gave the voters a sense of where he wanted the country

to go and he talked about his failure to deliver.



Except that he did not quite do it himself. He put up senior and

respected supporters to do it. That way there appeared to be a touch of

honesty but somehow the blame attached itself to others. He threw up the

spectre of old Communism, talked about his aspirations and rehearsed the

difficulties along the way, wringing his hands a touch at the failures.



Is there a message here for someone closer to home? It was Oliver

August, writing in the Times on 14 June, who said: ‘If you can win

elections with an economic record like Yeltsin’s, who needs a feel good

factor?’



Answers on a postcard.



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