History proves all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are lasting.
The parliamentary elections of December 1999 acted as the launch pad for Putin's presidential campaign in early 2000. The Kremlin had been able to beat off the challenge posed by various regionally based parties led by the likes of Luzhkov and Primakov, and in its place had created its own organisation, Unity, that not only countered the threat but also acted as the core of a pro-presidential bloc in the third Duma (2000-03). More broadly, many observers noted that civil society was weak and was unable to constrain the actions of the political authorities. As a recent work put it: 'Civil society remains in an embryonic condition and can only to a very limited degree define the domestic or foreign policies of the state … there is a gulf between the views of the elite and the majority of the population on a number of questions.' 2 While the first part is undoubtedly correct, the idea of a vast gulf between the views of the elite and the people was probably exaggerated - or so it appeared as Putin's leadership progressed. What is beyond doubt is the lack of a single Russian political identity, with enormous social polarisation, a relatively small middle class and at least a third of the population below the poverty line. Some parts of the country were torn by actual or potential ethnic conflict, and in some of Russia's furthest regions (and some not so far away) Moscow's authority rang as a distant bell. At the heart of Putin's state building project was the attempt to homogenise political space and to stamp the Kremlin's authority on political processes everywhere. How he tried to do this and to what extent he succeeded we shall examine below.
The development of a national party system was undermined by the ability of regional executives to control patronage and to influence electoral outcomes. The use of so-called 'administrative resources' by central and