Analyzing the Duma Elections in Russia

By Tanrisever, Oktay F. | Insight Turkey, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Analyzing the Duma Elections in Russia


Tanrisever, Oktay F., Insight Turkey


ABSTRACT

This article examines the December 2, 2007 State Duma elections in Russia in terms of their significance and implications for Russian politics. The article argues that the success of the United Russia party in the State Duma elections created the most conducive conditions for Vladimir Putin's handling of the presidential succession problem in 2008. By keeping the State Duma under the control of his 'Party of Power,' Vladimir Putin became able to nominate his close ally Dmitry Medvedev to the Presidency since the election results enabled him to use the State Duma to counterbalance the overwhelming presidential power which will be transferred to Dmitry Medvedev in 2008. The article begins by examining the significance and the actual organization of the December 2, 2007 State Duma elections in Russia. On the basis of the analysis of the election results, the article goes on to discuss the implications of the December 2, 2007 State Duma elections for Russian politics.

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Russian voters cast their votes for the election of members of the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament, on December 2, 2007. It is very important to determine to what extent these elections have significant implications for the political role of the State Duma and the United Russia party in Russia's political system.

There are competing views about the significance of the December 2, 2007 State Duma elections. The relatively more widespread view is that these elections are just one of many ordinary elections in Russia, a country where elections do not make any difference. This view has some merit, since Russian democracy has been deeply undermined for years, especially after Vladimir Putin's rise to power in late 1999. (1) An alternative view, albeit a marginal one, however, maintains that the very fact that these elections were held without any political instability signifies the consolidation of democratic practice of free and fair elections in a country whose past was dominated by the totalitarian rule of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). (2)

The argument of this article is that the overwhelming success of the United Russia Party in the elections created the most conducive political environment for Vladimir Putin's handling of the presidential succession problem in 2008. By keeping the State Duma under the control of his 'Party of Power', the United Russia party, Vladimir Putin became able to nominate his close ally Dmitry Medvedev to the Presidency. After the election results demonstrated that United Russia had gained the majority of seats in the State Duma, Putin realized that he has nothing to fear from Medvedev's political power under the new circumstances. If Medvedev behaved independently, Putin could bring him into line by using his political power in the State Duma.

Of course, the election results consolidated the power relations that emerged in Russia since Vladimir Putin's rise to power in 1999. Nevertheless, the electoral success of United Russia has significant implications for the ways in which political power is used in the Russian political system, particularly in the relationship between the Presidency, the State Duma and the 'Party of Power,' United Russia.

In the analysis below, this article will initially discuss the political significance of the December 2, 2007 State Duma elections in Russia. Next, the article will examine the organization of the elections. Afterwards, the State Duma election results will be analysed. In the penultimate section, the article will discuss the implications of the December 2, 2007 State Duma elections for Russia's political system. The analysis will conclude with an overall discussion of the elections and the nature of the Russian political system.

The Political Significance of the December 2007 Russian State Duma Elections

The Russian State Duma elections on December 2, 2007 could be considered a noteworthy political development in Russian politics with significant implications not only for who has power, but for the ways in which power will be used in the Russian political system after the end of Vladimir Putin's second presidential term in 2008. …

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