DUSHANBE, Soviet Union — Soviet Tadzhikistan voted Sunday in its first presidential elections, but most people in the hillside town of Kiblai seemed hungrier for bread than for democracy.
Men grumbled about shortages as they lined up to receive their monthly ration of flour and carry it away on donkeys to feed their families.
"We're hoping for something better," said a 37-year-old farm worker. "Under communism everything was fine. But now you go to the market with 100 rubles and all you get is four or five sacks of potatoes."
Conservative instincts are strong in the Central Asian republic bordering Afghanistan and China.
The favorite in the election is Rakhman Nabiyev, Communist Party boss in Tadzhikistan from 1982 to 1985 and still widely viewed as a force for order and stability despite the party's disgrace and suspension after August's failed coup.
His chief rival, Davlat Khudonazarov, 47, a liberal film director, scorns the notion that Nabiyev's political experience can solve the republic's problems.
Preliminary results are expected today, with a runoff between the top two candidates in two weeks if no one wins more than 50% of the vote.