Campaign Ads Start Election Fever




Former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko launched his election campaign for a seat in parliament this week with television ads urging Russians to "do it yourself" and build a better future.


In one ad, the youthful Kiriyenko is shown building a toy town with his son as his wife and daughter look on, smiling. In another, Kiriyenko speaks to viewers against a changing backdrop of industrial landscapes showing moving construction cranes and highway intersections.


The message is that "economically independent people," whom Kiriyenko calls the "silent majority," need to unite and take the initiative in rebuilding Russia.


The start of the ad campaign coincided with the first congress of Kiriyenko's political party, Novaya Sila, or New Force, being held in Nizhny Novgorod.


The ads, which run under the slogan "do it yourself," are showing daily on RTR and NTV. They aired three times on each station Friday.


The ads have drawn a "very intense response" from television viewers, who have been calling the party's 24-hour hot line, Kiriyenko's spokesman Andrei Serov said.


Television viewers also have been hit recently by another familiar face, Vladimir Dovgan, the entrepreneur whose image is on food products from ketchup to vodka.


The head of the food and drink distribution empire has now created his own political movement, called the Russian Dovgan Party.


"I'll make Russians the richest people in the world," he says in his television ads. He speaks out for a free market, promotion of domestic goods and large social benefits.


The party will not be fielding candidates in December's elections to the State Duma, parliament's lower house, because it missed the registration date. This has caused some to see his political party as aimed at boosting his sagging business empire.


Kiriyenko, however, does plan to run in this year's Duma elections, his spokesman said.


Now 36, Kiriyenko was appointed prime minister last March, pulled by President Boris Yeltsin into the spotlight from his obscure position as fuel and energy minister. He was dumped five months later after his government devalued the ruble.


Following the example of his former deputy in the government, Boris Nemtsov, who founded a movement called Rossiya Molodaya, or Young Russia, Kiriyenko announced the creation of his own party in November.


Both parties are part of the coalition Pravoye Delo, or Just Cause, which also includes Anatoly Chubais, Yegor Gaidar and other pro-market democrats.


But Kiriyenko will run for the Duma on Novaya Sila's party list, separate from fellow Pravoye Delo members, Serov said.


Kiriyenko "certainly is for the largest possible coalitions, and he believes by the time of the elections the existing blocs will take on different shapes from what they are today," he said.


As for whether Kiriyenko has any presidential ambitions, Serov said he is taking things one step at a time.


"Parliamentary elections are more important than presidential ones at this particular period of time," the spokesman said. "It's a chance to change the structure of power in Russia to make it more efficient."