The Politics of Institutional Choice: The Formation of the Russian State Duma

The Politics of Institutional Choice: The Formation of the Russian State Duma

The Politics of Institutional Choice: The Formation of the Russian State Duma

The Politics of Institutional Choice: The Formation of the Russian State Duma


"Smith and Remington use the case of the Russian Duma to address questions at the cutting edge of legislative research in political science. As many leading scholars have noted, we are only beginning to understand how institutions are chosen. These authors tell a convincing story about the key factors influencing institutional choices in the Russian context. In particular, their study provides new insights into the relative importance of electoral, policy, and partisan incentives on legislators' choices. Their findings regarding the ubiquitous impact of electoral rules and competition on legislators' behavior (most importantly their choice of institutional arrangements) represent a major contribution to political science."--Josephine T. Andrews, University of California, Davis

"Making sense of institutional choice, in any context, is an important task. Extending our knowledge about a major new democracy makes Smith and Remington's book especially worthwhile to read. The authors draw a number ofreasonable,hypotheses from the literature on institutional choice and put together a remarkable data set on the Russian Duma and its members. Combining votes on bills together with surveys of Duma candidates and members is an extraordinary achievement. The authors have crafted a valuable story about institutional and political evolution in Russia."--Mathew D. McCubbins, University of California, San Diego


This book is the product of the collaboration of two scholars— one a specialist in U.S. congressional institutions and politics, the other a student of Soviet and Russian politics—who found they shared an interest in the early development of the Russian parliament. Our collaboration began in 1992 as we studied the operation of the transitional Supreme Soviet in Russia. the convening of the new State Duma in January 1994, following the crisis of 1993, presented a rare opportunity to witness the impact of politics on institutional choice at a moment when a new legislature was being founded. Aware that such choices often have a lasting effect but that the specific reasons they were made are easily forgotten with time, we sought to take advantage of this historic opening.

We wanted to investigate the dynamics of institutional choice in a new legislative body before its new rules and procedures had been established, while it was still possible to learn why they were adopted. We reasoned that Russia made a difficult but illuminating case for interrogating models of legislative institutions, difficult because of the instability of constitutional forms over this decade and rewarding because many of the architects of these changes are accessible and articulate. Most models of institutional choice in legislative settings used in political science were developed in the American context, making it challenging to separate the effects of social context from pure political strategy. Such models may therefore be context-bound and thus limited in their portability, or so parsimonious that they do not yield useful theories about choices in real-world settings. the deep dislocations that Russia has experienced in its political and economic system over the past decade give us confidence that if analytic models generated in more stable political environments yield productive explanations of outcomes in Russia, the models must be reasonably robust.

We are convinced that Russian politicians have the same sorts of interests that motivate politicians in elective environments anywhere, and we argue that while these cannot be reduced to a single master objective function, politicians' aims nonetheless comprise a broadly similar menu in many different national settings. Moreover, we claim, the strategies politicians pursue in deciding among institutional alternatives are shaped by the nature of the goals that are most immediately affected. This means that our models need to be grounded in time and place if they are to be specified sufficiently to yield testable propositions. Therefore, in each chapter we explain the political implications of the alterna-

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