Policy Memos

The 2000 Presidential Elections: The Political Taste and Aftertaste

Policy Memo:


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The first relatively free and fair elections to the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR took place on March 26, 1989. These elections gave a strong impetus to the political development of the society and started a period of electoral democracy. Though shocked, the Soviet nomenklatura did not disappear. Adjusting to the changed conditions, the Russian nomenklatura came to the 1993 elections more or less prepared. The unstable array of political forces and the specifics of Yeltsin's regime construction made the 1995-96 presidential elections appear as a kind of political plurality.

March 26, 2000, represented the culmination of an eleven-year-long period of transformation from the Soviet decorative democracy into a Russian manipulative democracy. The circle closed: at the start of a new spiral, society returned to predetermined election results and the practice of approving the appointed leader. To question whether elections were free and fair misses the point, because those criteria are
not applicable here: it is quite a different genre, like evaluating popular American wrestling by the rules of classic Greco-Roman wrestling. The 2000 elections could not be clean regardless of procedure given the tough clash of elite clans on the eve of elections, the negative mobilization of the electorate inspired by the Kremlin and the war in Chechnya, and the early resignation of the former president designed to give the maximum advantage to the new one. [...]

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About the author

Professor, Department of Comparative Politics
Higher School of Economics, Moscow