MOSCOW — The fallout from parliamentary elections held nearly two weeks ago wafted into Russia's political circles Thursday, with a flurry of winners announcing presidential bids and incumbent Boris N. Yeltsin warning that heads will roll for his personal setbacks.
Alexander I. Lebed--a retired army general who won a seat in the Duma, the lower house of parliament, with vows to impose law and order--became the first serious contender to officially proclaim his intention to run in June's presidential election.
The last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, told the newspaper Izvestia he is pondering a challenge to Yeltsin, and a little-known Siberian army general announced he will run. Former Vice President Alexander V. Rutskoi, who helped lead a failed 1993 coup, registered his candidacy before the Dec. 17 Duma election.
None of the last three is given much chance of victory. But Lebed has set himself up as a patriotic alternative to both the radical right wing represented by ultranationalist Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky and the reviled liberal reformers who would have to align with Yeltsin for a democratic candidate to have a chance.
The 45-year-old Lebed managed to win a Duma post despite association with the Congress of Russian Communities, or CRC, which fared badly in the election. He is pondering a switch of allegiance, perhaps to run as the Communist Party of Russia candidate, CRC member Sergei Burkov said in a radio interview.
Political analysts predict that such an alliance could prove successful, as the Communists won the biggest share of votes in the Duma election but party leader Gennady A. Zyuganov is considered lacking as presidential material.
"The Communists would strongly enhance their chances if they found a more charismatic and popular candidate," said Igor V. Bestuzhev-Lada, a historian with the Russian Academy of Sciences. "If they got Lebed on their side, they would be sure to have a winning ticket."
The Communists will have 158 of the Duma's 450 seats, followed by the Our Home is Russia movement created by Yeltsin with 54, Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party with 51 seats and the reformist Yabloko faction of economist Grigory A. Yavlinsky with 45 seats.
The poor showing by democrats reflected Yeltsin's slumping popularity. Russians have grown tired of the hardships inflicted on pensioners and state workers by a fitful reform program.
But the 64-year-old president, still recuperating two months after a mild heart attack, has also begun maneuvering in response to the parliamentary election.
A political movement formed to back Yeltsin or his chosen successor in the 1996 election said it will begin seeking nomination signatures, even though Yeltsin has declined to announce until February whether he will run again.
Yeltsin also summoned Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin to the suburban rest home where the president is convalescing to lambaste his economic gurus and order a Cabinet shake-up.
The president's harsh words appeared to be a prelude to firing Economics Minister Yevgeny G. Yasin, and Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev is also expected to lose his post soon.
If Russian voters follow the pattern of the Duma election, the initial presidential balloting on June 16 will probably leave the Communist Party candidate to battle Zhirinovsky in the runoff two weeks later.
Despite such forbidding forecasts, Russia's embattled democrats insist they will ultimately prevail.
"If the Communists come to power, they will only steal several years from Russia," said Yegor T. Gaidar, a former acting prime minister and leader of Russia's Democratic Choice. "We will win in the end, notwithstanding."