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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - Voters, parties and parliament

Summary

The new Russian Federation, under the Constitution it adopted in December 1993, was to be a ‘democratic federal law-based state with a republican form of government’. What kind of form of government this might be took some time to establish, but from the outset it was a state in which the right to rule was based on regular elections to a new parliament, whose lower house was called the State Duma.

Parties, however, remained very weak, elections were increasingly controlled by the authorities themselves, and under Vladimir Putin, from 2000 onwards, the Kremlin itself became the dominant player, acting through a ‘party of power’ that it had itself established and subordinating the country as a whole to a top-down ‘executive vertical’. Law-making authority, formally speaking, was still in the hands of the State Duma, but the Kremlin controlled the party that held two-thirds of its seats, and the more political power was centralised, the more the parliament became a marginal participant in the policy process.

Voting was still quite new in early postcommunist Russia. Voting, that was, in the sense of choosing. Under the Soviet system there had been elections at regular intervals but no opportunity to select, not just among candidates and parties but (in practice) whether to vote at all. In a variation on Brecht's suggestion that the government ‘elect a new people’, it was the leadership that determined the composition of each new parliament and the constituencies in which they would themselves be nominated.

Further reading
Colton, Timothy J., Transitional Citizens: Voters and What Influences Them in the New Russia (Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 2000).
Gel'man, Vladimir, ‘Party politics in Russia: from competition to hierarchy’, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 60, no. 6 (August 2008), pp. 913–30.
Hale, Henry E., Why Not Parties in Russia? Democracy, Federalism, and the State (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Myagkov, Mikhail, Ordeshook, Peter C. and Shakin, Dimitri, The Forensics of Election Fraud: Russia and Ukraine (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
Rose, Richard, Mishler, William and Munro, Neil, Russia Transformed: Developing Popular Support for a New Regime (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Rose, Richard, and Mishler, William, Popular Support for an Undemocratic Regime: The Changing Views of Russians (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Rose, Richard, and Munro, Neil, Elections without Order: Russia's Challenge to Vladimir Putin (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
Rose, Richard, and Munro, Neil Parties and Elections in New European Democracies (Colchester: ECPR Press, 2009).
Urban, Michael E., with Igrunov, Vyacheslav and Mitrokhin, Sergei, The Rebirth of Politics in Russia (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
White, Stephen, ‘Russia's client party system’, in Webb, Paul and White, Stephen, eds., Party Politics in New Democracies, rev. edn (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 21–52.
White, Stephen ‘Russia/USSR’, in Nohlen, Dieter and Stöver, Philip, eds., Elections in Europe: A Data Handbook (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2010), 1623–68.
White, Stephen, Ros, Richard and McAllister, Ian, How Russia Votes (Chatham House, NJ: Chatham House, 1997).
White, Stephen et al., ‘Russia's authoritarian elections’, special issue of Europe-Asia Studies, forthcoming.