Moscow's Moguls Pick Their Man

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MOSCOW: The tycoons whose money reelected Boris Yeltsin in 1996 have chosen their presidential candidate for 2000, and it's not "Czar Boris" -- it's the man he fired as prime minister last Monday. Viktor Chernomyrdin commands only 5.7 percent in the polls, but his backers point out that Yeltsin's numbers looked no better at the start of the 1996 campaign.

Chernomyrdin's candidacy has the all-important support of media -- and oil tycoon Boris Berezovsky. "The big money follows Berezovsky," says TIME Moscow bureau chief Paul Quinn-Judge. "He's telling the other oligarchs that Chernomyrdin is perfect because he can work with the Communists. They feel safe with him because he's likely to ensure business as usual." That's assuming they can get the public to elect a man who, Quinn-Judge says, shows no discernible charisma, is unable to speak in public and has been publicly humiliated by Yeltsin. But first they have to get the unpredictable President to actually step down when his term ends.