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Politics in Russia. Political Parties and Elections. Important political change. Democratization of political system introduction of competitive elections shift from a single-party system to a multiparty system. Transformation of party system.

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Politics in Russia

Political Parties and Elections


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Important political change

  • Democratization of political system

    • introduction of competitive elections

    • shift from a single-party system to a multiparty system


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Transformation of party system

  • Communist Party of Soviet Union used to dominate state and social institutions

    • no competition for political office

    • no mechanism to ensure accountability

    • party authority couldn’t be openly questioned

  • confusing array of political organizations have run candidates in elections since ’93


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New political parties

  • government efforts at tightening the conditions for party formation and registration

    • effect on small parties

    • effect on party coalitions

  • suppress democratic representation?

  • bring order to a chaotic and fragmented party structure?


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Russian political parties

  • generally form around a prominent individual

  • are generally associated with prominent political figures

    • increased political fragmentation

  • do not have a firm social base or stable constituency

  • a major cleavage: economic policy


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4 main categories of parties

  • reformist parties

    • democracy and market

  • centrist parties

    • “parties of power”

  • communist parties

    • Communist Party of the Russian Federation

  • nationalist parties

    • Liberal Democratic Party of Russia


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Reformist parties

  • liberal democracy

    • dismantle political framework of socialism

    • guarantee individual freedom

    • rule of law

  • market economy

    • open and free market

    • property rights

  • Union of Right Forces and Yabloko



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Communist Party of the R.F.

  • Major successor party to the CPSU

    • oppose radical market reforms

    • oppose privatization programs

    • oppose Western influence

  • most party-like of all parties

    • substantial organizational base

    • well-defined electoral following

    • large (but old) membership (~ 500,000)


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Communist Party of the R.F.

  • CPRF

    • rather stable electoral share

    • but unlikely to win parliamentary majority or presidency

  • CPRF leader Zyuganov

    • 1996 and 2000 presidential elections


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Yeltsin campaign in 1996

  • Public opinion polls

    • 24% supported Zyuganov

    • 8% supported Yeltsin


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Economic reforms

  • Macro-economic stabilization

    • structural adjustment

      • cut state spending

      • increase taxation

      • end price controls

      • open trade

    • “shock therapy”

      • all “shock” but no “therapy”

  • Privatization


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Centrist parties: a paradox

  • Surveys indicate that voters would favor policies and values at the political center

    • e.g. social democratic party

  • but no one has succeeded in creating a major, lasting centrist party

    • social welfare state

    • political freedoms

    • private property rights


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Centrist “parties of power”

  • Our Home is Russia (1995 - )

    • pro-government

    • centrist

    • moderately reformist

    • then Prime Minister headed it

    • never succeeded in defining a clear program

    • became a coalition of officeholders


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Unity (“United Russia”)

  • Formed 3 months before 1999 election

  • active assistance from

    • then President Yeltsin

    • then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

  • received 23.3% of the vote in 1999


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Power transition in 1999-2000

  • State Duma tried to impeach President Yeltsin but didn’t gather enough votes

  • Yeltsin announced that he would resign

  • Presidential election

  • 2000-03-06

  • Vladimir Putin


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parties of power”

  • Parties depend on official support

  • avoid building independent bases of organizational support

  • policy positions are vague

  • vanish when the major sponsors lose power

  • Unity would disintegrate if President Putin were to lose power or popular support



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Electoral rules for State Duma

  • Similar to Germany’s hybrid system

  • each voter has 2 votes

    • 1 for a candidate for that district’s seat

    • 1 for a registered party on the party list

  • half of Duma (225 seats) elected from single-member districts

  • half of Duma (225 seats) selected by parties according to vote share (> 5%)



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Pro-government majority

  • President Putin and his government could generally count on majority support

  • pro-government deputies depend on the Kremlin for political support

  • little effect on the makeup of government

    • administrators with no partisan affiliation

    • almost none were drawn from parliament


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Putin and Stability

  • Popular and effective politician

  • Has strengthened institutions despite lingering social economic problems

  • Has built up the power of the Kremlin and other parts of the central government

  • Has undermined aspects of democracy

  • without removing basic freedoms or eliminating competitive elections.


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