Primer on Russian Parliamentary Elections

Article excerpt

According to the 1993 Constitution, Russia is a Presidential Republic (more like the U.S. or France than Canada or Britain). The government is effectively controlled by the President, which can lead the Duma (parliament) to somewhat irresponsible positions in which MPs feel free to vote for populist decisions without being responsible for their enforcement or implementation.

The current Duma was elected in December 1995, which means that, for the next four years, Parliament will be controlled by Communists and their allies, no matter what the outcome of the presidential election. In accordance with the existing electoral legislation, half of the new Duma seats (225 out of 450) were distributed proportionally among the political parties winning at least 5% of ballots. In 1995, four such parties achieved recognition: 1. Ziuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) which won 22.3% of the vote (an increase from 15.4% in the December 1993 elections); 2. Zhirinovski's LDPR with 11.1% (down from 22.8% in 1993); 3. "Russia Our Home" (ROH), the new Nomenklatura party of the government with 9.9% (a decrease from the 15.4% won in 1993 as part of the coalition called "Russia's Choice" allied with Gaidar's genuine liberal democrats and the "Democratic Russia" movement); and 4. the Yabloko ("Apple") party, Yavlinski's Western-style social democratic movement with 6.9% (7.8% in 1993). Democratic Russia this time chose to support Yavlinski, while Gaidar's Democratic Choice ran separately but managed to gain only 3.9% of the ballots and, thus, no representation in this proportional party-list-based half of the Duma.

As a result, these four parties representing only 50.2% of the participating voters (or, given the participation rate of 64%, only 32% of the potential electorate) monopolized all 225 seats with none for the remaining 39 political parties and/or electoral blocs that scored less than the 5% minimum. (In comparison, in the previous Duma, 8 of the 13 competing parties, and 87% of all voters, qualified for representation.) A rough classification of the 43 political parties and blocs that competed produces seven tendencies with support as follows: 1. four Communist parties who together obtained 32.2% (apart from the national-socialist Ziuganov's CPRF there is, Stalinist V. Anpolov's Communists for the USSR, N. Ryzhkov's People's Power bloc, and the Agrarians); 2. five nationalist parties with 19.4% (including Zhirinovski's LDPR); 3. seven somewhat pro-government Centre-Left parties with 10.3% (none of which passed the 5%-threshold); 4. eight pro-government Centre parties (Russia Our Home and seven marginal parties) with 11. …