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  • Russia Between Elections The Vanishing Center
  • Michael McFaul (bio)

On 17 December 1995, Russian voters elected representatives to the Duma, the lower house of parliament. For the first time in the thousand-year history of Russia, these elections were held under law, as scheduled, and without serious fraud or falsification. Though the balloting occurred in the dead of winter, was only for one house of the parliament, did not include a presidential election, and was confused by the participation of 43 parties, nonetheless an amazing 65 percent of eligible voters turned out. In historical perspective, the conduct of this election must be seen as a positive step toward democratic consolidation in Russia. But while the process was encouraging for democracy, the results were not. Parties with questionable democratic and reformist credentials made significant gains in the Duma.

Russia’s Duma is constituted through a mixed electoral system. Half of the 450 seats are allocated according to a party-list system of proportional representation. To win seats through this ballot, parties must receive a minimum of 5 percent of the popular vote nationwide (a threshold that only four parties crossed in this last election). The other half of the seats are filled by single-mandate elections, in which individuals seeking to represent a specific electoral district must win a plurality of its vote.

A review of the party-list vote shows that “opposition” parties—those hostile to the government and to economic reform—generally improved upon their performance in the December 1993 parliamentary elections (see Table 1 on page 92). The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), the main successor to the Communist Party of the [End Page 90]Soviet Union (CPSU), made impressive gains in the 1995 elections, winning almost one-quarter of the popular vote. The extremely nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), headed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, won less than half of its 1993 total, but still placed second in the 1995 elections with 11.4 percent. Three other antireformist opposition parties narrowly failed to cross the 5 percent threshold: Working Russia, a coalition of radical communist parties headed by Viktor Anpilov (4.6 percent); the Agrarian Party of Russia, the CPRF’s rural comrades (3.8 percent); and the Congress of Russian Communities (CRC), a left-of-center nationalist group headed by General Aleksandr Lebed and Yuri Skokov (4.4 percent). Two additional opposition parties had modest electoral success: Derzhava, former vice-president Aleksandr Rutskoi’s personal party (2.6 percent); and Power to the People, a fusion of former communists (personified by former Soviet prime minister Nikolai Ryzhkov) and new imperial nationalists like Sergei Baburin (1.6 percent).

Table 1.
— Russian Elections, 1993 and 1995
1995 Elections * 1993 Elections
Party-List Seats Single-Mandate Seats Total Duma Seats Percentage of Party-List Vote Percentage of Party-List Vote
Our Home is Russia 45 10 55 10.3
Yabloko 30 15 45 7.0 7.9
Democratic Choice of Russia 0 9 9 3.9 15.5
Other/Independent 0 33 33 3.6 4.1
Total 75 67 142 24.8 27.5
Women of Russia 0 3 3 4.7 8.1
Workers’ Self-Management 0 1 1 4.0
Other/Independent 0 38 38 2.6 15.4
Total 0 42 42 11.3 23.5
Communist Party 100 58 158 22.7 12.4
Liberal Democratic Party 50 1 51 11.4 22.9
Agrarians 0 20 20 3.8 8.0
Working Russia 0 1 1 4.6
Congress of Russian Communities 0 5 5 4.4
Other/Independent 0 31 31 5.2 0
Total 150 116 266 52.1 43.3

*All parties that received at least 3 percent of the party-list vote are shown here. The following parties received between 1 and 3 percent of the vote: Reformist-Forward Russia (2.0), “Pamfilova-Gurov-Lysenko” bloc (1.6); Centrist-Party of Labor (1.6), Ivan Rybkin’s bloc (1.1); Opposition-Derzhava (2.6), Power to the People (1.6), Stanislav Govorukhin’s bloc (1.0). Parties with less than 1 percent are not included in the two right-hand collumns.

On the reformist side of...

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