Reindeer herders and arctic geologists trudged to Siberian polling stations Friday to vote in the Soviet Union's first multicandidate elections.
Other, more accessible areas vote Sunday in the elections meant to herald the onset of democracy and give Soviet citizens more say in who and how they are governed.At one polling station at the Kara-ginsky state farm on the Kamchatka peninsula in Siberia, 332 herders and government geologists voted for eight candidates contesting the region's sole seat to the Congress of People's Deputies, the new parliament meant to replace the rubber-stamp Supreme Soviet.
The officials Soviet news agency Tass said the voting in a makeshift polling station took much more time than in previous elections because people puzzled over the choices.
Because of transportation difficulties, remote areas are allowed to vote in advance of the scheduled election day and polls remain open longer.
While voters in the remote areas cast their ballots, the 2,901 candidates for 1,500 territorial seats up for grabs in Sunday's elections began winding up their monthlong campaigns. Some 85 percent of all candidates are Communist Party members.
Of the seats, 385 featured only one unopposed candidate in a throwback to previous election practices when voters were faced with a simple "yes" or "no" vote.
In Moscow, red banners urging voters to go the polls Sunday were strung across the main roads leading to the Kremlin and sound trucks cruised residential neighborhoods, urging votes for specific candidates.
While most races have featured lackluster debate and grand promises to improve everything from defense to farming, attention has focused on the Moscow city contest pitting former Moscow Communist Party leader Boris Yeltsin against Yevgeny Brakov, the party-supported director of the city's giant Zil auto plant.
Yeltsin, who is calling for an end to the privileges of the party elite and an examination of a multiparty system in the Soviet Union, has come under intense fire from the Communist Party. The party has launched an official investigation into his views, which deviate sharply from those of the party.
Yeltsin, who has struck a populist chord and counts support from among white and blue-collar workers and students, claims his campaign has been sabotaged by party officials.
Permits for campaign rallies have been canceled and the official media has carried a series of personal attacks claiming he uses the very elitist privileges he says he condemns. Still, his support remains strong, with street demonstrations by supporters.