Growing Pains: Russian Democracy and the Election of 1993

By Timothy J. Colton; Jerry F. Hough | Go to book overview

ric is that it appears to have offset the antigovernment impulse among those voters who were well versed in the constitution--and presumably relatively well versed in party politics, too. In such urbane circles, the net effect was a lack of systematic connection between support of the Liberal Democrats and the referendum choice. Among constitutional unsophisticates, though, there was a palpable negative correlation, and it is this that creates the total effect.


Conclusion

Of all the acts of political engineering attempted by Yeltsin's government in 1993, the constitutional referendum was the most audacious and the most successful. It succeeded because its initiator managed to piece together the kind of winning coalition that eluded him and his friends in the parliamentary election. The coalition for ratification was informed by skimpy public knowledge about the intricacies of the constitution but by widespread and reasonably discerning knowledge about constitutionally charged issues. Although sociological and economic variables such as community size, living standard, ethnicity, and age were predictive of citizen choice, 24 attitudes were far more so. Strangely for a constitutional referendum, public opinion about nonconstitutional subjects mattered more than opinion about constitutional subjects, even among constitutional sophisticates. And surprisingly for a poll coinciding with the country's first multiparty election, the untried political parties were also able to serve as a compass to many participants in the referendum.

Russians, in sum, granted Yeltsin his fondest political wish at the same time that they frustrated the partisan plans of his most fervent partners and backers. The governing charter they put in place has allowed him and his associates to rule ever since by executive fiat, relegating the new parliament to a largely subsidiary role. The referendum founded both the relative political stability of the mid-1990s and rank uncertainty about the future of politics after Yeltsin, when the superpresidential machinery he crafted and the electorate accepted may yet fall into the hands of leaders pursuing non- democratic ends.


Notes
1.
Stephen Holmes, "Superpresidentialism and Its Problems," East European Constitutional Review, vol. 2/3 (Fall 1993/Winter 1994), p. 125.

-307-

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