Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

7Electoral politics

For forms of government let fools contest,

That which is best administered is best.

(Alexander Pope) 1

Elections play a crucial part in the development of a democratic society, but in and of themselves they do not denote the achievement of democracy, defined as popular control over the executive through effective representation in a legislature. The years between 1989-2001 saw ten competitive national elections and three national referendums. In that time the institutional contours of Russian electoralism have become established, certain behavioural patterns have emerged that are repeated from one electoral cycle to the next, and the legitimacy of the new political order has been firmly rooted in the popular validation achieved through the ballot box. Russia's electoral politics, however, are constrained and relatively isolated from power relations. In terms of succession, changes of government and even the presidency appear disconnected from the outcome of elections. In terms of accountability, both at the federal and regional level, elections have been rather more free than fair, with the electoral process often distorted by asymmetries in financial, administrative and power resources.


The experience of elections

Despite flaws in their conception and implementation, elections have nevertheless played an important part in the development of Russian democracy. Unlike most other post-communist countries, relatively free elections were held in Russia some two years before the fall of communism. This gave rise to a peculiar amalgamation of the structures and elites of the old regime with a novel legitimacy derived from their partial adaptation to democratic electoral politics. This hybrid system, in which change was led largely from within the system itself, marginalised the democratic insurgency and helped insulate the regime from the usual effects of electoral politics. Below we shall briefly review the experience of elections in Russia, and then analyse some of their key features. 2


The emergence of electoral politics

Competitive, if not yet multi-party, elections were the centrepiece of Gorbachev's liberalisation programme. Rather than re-legitimising the Soviet system, however,

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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