Policy Memos

The Eve of Electoral Threshold: New Challenges in Russian Politics

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The ongoing cycle of Russia's national elections--parliamentary elections scheduled for December 19, 1999, and presidential elections, which should be held July 9, 2000 according to the constitution- represent a threshold in Russia's electoral politics. They draw a line between the uncertain period of post-communist transition and the formation (if not consolidation) of a new political regime. This new regime could be either a liberal democracy or a new (and even tougher) form of authoritarian rule: what emerges will be contingent upon the political outcomes of the new electoral cycle.

Despite the fact that since 1990 Russia experienced eight competitive national elections and three referenda (much more than the US during that time), their impact on Russia's political development has not been definitive. The elections were relatively free in terms of mass participation and opportunities for parties and candidates to run for public office. Although there is a lot of evidence of abuse of power, electoral fraud, and "dirty" electoral technologies, the political results of national elections have never been disputed. Some attempts to delay or postpone elections have failed, rejected both by the political elite and the general public. At the least, one cannot "bypass" voting procedures without a complete restructuring of Russia's political system. Reelection of new legislatures, governors and city mayors across the country serves as examples of real electoral democracy. [...]

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About the author

Distinguished Professor, Political Sciences and Sociology
European University at St. Petersburg; University of Helsinki