Russia - Political parties

In the elections to the State Duma held 12 December 1993, 225 of the 450 seats were elected on the basis of proportional representation from party lists, which had to receive a minimum of 5% of the national vote to gain representation. The other 225 seats were elected from single member districts.

The party to receive the largest number of seats (76) was the radical reformist Russia's Choice led by Yeltsin's ex-acting prime minister, Egor Gaidar. The centrist New Regional Policy group (which was actually formed by nonaligned deputies from single member districts after the election) won 65. Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultra nationalist, antidemocratic Liberal Democratic Party won 63. The pro-Communist Agrarian Party won 55 seats, while the Communist Party of the Russian Federation won 45. Six other parties or blocs (some of which were also formed after the election) won between 12 and 30 seats each.

Deputies to the 178-seat Council of the Federation were elected in two-member districts where they mostly ran as individuals. Of the 171 seats that were filled, only 27 identified themselves with a particular party. The ultra nationalists, Communists, and their sympathizers predominated in the State Duma.

In the December 1995 elections, the Communists again dominated the Duma taking 149 of the 450 seats. They were supported by two left-wing factions, Power to the People (37 seats) and the Agraians (35), and together were only 5 votes shy of an outright majority. The center-right Our Home is Russia won 50 seats, as did Vladimir Zhirinovshy's far-right Liberal Democratic Party and Yabloko, the moderate-reformist block led by Grigoriy Yavlinsky.

In the December 1999 Duma elections, six parties surmounted the 5% threshold on the party list vote, accounting for over 80% of the votes cast. Three of the six parties or blocs that received seats in the party list vote were created just prior to the election (this did not include the newly formed ultra nationalist Zhirinovskiy bloc, which was essentially a relabeling of his Liberal Democratic Party). Unity ("The Bear") was created in late September 1999 by the Yeltsin government, and the Union of Right-Wing Forces and Fatherland-All Russia in August 1999. In contrast to previous Duma races, many liberal groups (with the major exception of Yabloko) cooperated in forming the Union of Right-Wing Forces electoral bloc to enhance their chances for surmounting the 5% hurdle. The newly formed Unity and Union blocs received crucial publicity when Putin endorsed them. Results from the single member constituency races added some seats to those gained by the six successful parties and provided a few seats for minor parties. In all, the Communist Party won 120 seats, Unity 73, Fatherland 70, Union 29, Yabloko 20, and the Zhirinovskiy bloc 19. Non-party affiliated deputies won 95 seats, and a few seats faced runoffs. A little over one-third of the deputies elected were incumbents from the previous Duma.

In general, the election represented a major loss for Our Home (headed by presidential aspirant and former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin), which no longer was a faction in the legislature. Zhirinovskiy's bloc lost more than half its seats, compared to 1995, as did Yabloko. The new Duma convened in January 2000, and in a bold move, Unity and the Communist Party temporarily joined forces to grab the largest number of leadership posts and committee chairmanships.

In the first round of the June 1996 presidential election Aleksandr I. Lebed received 15% of the vote to Mr. Yeltsin's 35%, and Communist party candidate Gennadiy A. Zyuganov's 32%. Mr. Lebed, a retired general viewed by voters as a tough law-and-order strong man, dropped out of the race when Yeltsin named him national security advisor. Lebed gave his support to Yeltsin, which helped Yeltsin win 54% of the vote in the 3 July 1996 election. Two months later, however, Yeltsin forced Lebed out of the government. Yeltsin was barred from running for a third term.

Before the expiration of his term in mid-2000, Yeltsin resigned from office in December 1999. He explained that he had succeeded in preventing the election of a communist-led legislature in just-concluded elections and wanted to make way for his chosen successor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Yeltsin had also faced protracted ill health and international allegations of corruption and money laundering involving his family. In the first round of presidential elections held on 26 March 2000, Putin won about 53% of 75.2 million votes cast for nine candidates. The runner-up, Gennadiy Zyuganov, received 29%, down from the 32% he received in the first round of the 1996 race. At his inauguration on 7 May 2000, Putin stated that he would work to make Russia "a free, prosperous, rich, strong, and civilized country, a country of which its citizens are proud and which is respected in the world."

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