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Draft Paper Democratization Assistance and the Duma Elections

Lewis Madanick
Program Officer
International Foundation for Election Systems
International Research and Exchanges Council - Russian-U.S. Young Leadership Fellows
for Public Service Program
December 11, 1999

I. Democracy Assistance

Democracy Assistance - Aid programs explicitly designed to bolster democratic institutions, processes and principles.

Woodrow Wilson - U.S. fighting WW I «to make the world safe for Democracy.»

****Insert Democracy Assistance Template

US Government - the idea of democracy is inextricably linked to the national identity of the US.

Intrinsic value of democracy - rests on the ideals of liberty, personal and civic freedom, and government of, for, and by the people.

II. Russian Duma Election - Introduction

1. Parliamentary Election - A parliamentary election to select all 450 members of the State Duma (lower house of the Russian Parliament) for a four year term. Half of the Duma seats (225) will be filled by deputies elected in single-mandate election districts, while the other 225 seats will be allocated according to a system of proportional representation (PR). Under the PR system, voters cast their ballots for a political party's national list of candidates. There will be two separate ballots, one for voters to choose who they would like to have as a representative from their single-mandate election districts, and one to make a choice among the lists of candidates nominated by political parties.

2. Single Mandate Districts - The winner is the candidate with the highest vote tally (plurality) provided that more votes were cast for this candidate than against all candidates; there are no run-off elections. There are approximately 2,300 candidates running for the 225 single member seats. From the original 3,300 candidates that registered, the commissions denied the registration of 320 for «various reasons,» while the remainder failed to complete the registration process. The winner in each of the 225 single-mandate election districts will be separately declared by each District Election Commission.

The majority of single member districts (118) have between 5-10 candidates for election. Districts with the lowest number of candidates include districts No. 27 in Tuva, No. 36 in Altai Krai, and No. 215 in the Oginsk-Buryat Autonomous Okrug, each with three candidates. District No. 100 in Leningrad Oblast posts the highest number of candidates at 24.

3. Proportional Representation (Party Lists) - There are 29 registered electoral associations and blocs (i.e. political parties) competing on the federal ballot with a total of 3,699 candidates. Each party nominates a national election list of up to 270 candidates. The party determines the order of candidates on their list; only the top three names of party candidates are actually printed on the ballot. Each list contains 18 «federal candidates» while the remaining candidates must represent various regions. «Federal candidates» receive seats on a priority basis, while the ones running within a regional list receive seats according to their proportional support within the party. A total of 409 candidates were struck from the lists - 23 were withdrawn by their parties, 92 removed themselves, 102 failed to submit the required registration documentation, and 192 were struck by the election commissions for filing false information. Of those finally registered, 15 applied through the new provisions allowing electoral deposit in lieu of signatures.

Political parties must receive at least 5% of the votes cast to be eligible for the distribution of seats. However, if these political parties together represent less than 50% of the votes cast, then the threshold is gradually reduced down to a minimum of 3% of the voters in order to include as many parties as necessary until they collectively represent at least 50% or the voters.

III. Russian Duma Election Background

1. THEME - The legal infrastructure exists in Russia for free and fair elections. Russia has a capable body of election professionals and election law (in fact, there are examples of Russian innovations being used by other countries in their electoral processes). The problem lies in the infrastructure and the ability to administer and control the election process in a country that is in transition and is in a power struggle over all aspects of control.

2. The 1999 Duma election is the first Federal election in Russia for which a solid infrastructure exists. The Duma elections are critical and will decide the direction Russia will take into the 21st Century. Although IFES is tasked with the pretty dry responsibility of strictly electoral administration, it would not be Russia if a presentation on the upcoming elections did not provoke thought as to the direction in which Russia is heading (Kleptocracy, Kremlingate, Conflict of Nationalities, Economic Crisis, etc.).

3. In the words of Chairman of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, Alexander Veshniakov, «The forthcoming parliamentary elections are in a way a review of Russia's political forces, the political preferences of citizens of the Russian Federation. Figuratively speaking, today, all Russian political public associations stand ready for a «sowing campaign,» and the fate of Russia in the next millennium will depend on how deep you will plough fertile Russian soil and what seeds - those of hatred and enmity or kindness and mutual understanding - you will plant in this soil. Do not fall short of what the Russian people expect from you.»

4. In conflict with the strong body of law that exists for the election process in Russia, societal norms and a lack of precedent will probably impede the conduct of the 1999 Duma election. According to Yuri Latynina, of the Institute of Economy in Transition, «Russia lives not by law but by understandings. I mean not those formal rules and regulations that are written into our constitution and civil code, but by some informal rules, which are something in between a bandit's code and a feudal code.»1

5. This is the problem facing the electoral infrastructure in Russia as the bodies of election law that now exist (Basic Guarantees and Duma Elections Law) are very consistent with each other and are well thought out 9ther is extensive detail regarding nearly all electoral procedures - in fact, the laws are overloaded with details making them somewhat inflexible). The general understanding in Russia is that it is a country where corruption is pervasive and power remains unaccountable.

IV. Election Framework

1. The Russian election system was established in the years 1993-1995. In late 1992, the development of new election administration was initiated by a group of deputies and experts within the framework of the Constitutional Commission of the Congress of the Peoples Deputies of the Russian Federation. Their work, as modified, entered into force by Presidential Decree in the political crisis in the second half of 1993. On the basis of this decree, the first elections to a new Russian Parliament was conducted.

2. Electoral reform efforts in Russia have centered on a stated commitment to guaranteeing the rights of its citizens in the electoral process. Nevertheless, protecting the rights of over 100 million voters is a daunting task. The framework law on the «Basic Guarantees of Election Rights and the Rights to Participate in a Referendum» entered into force in 1994. This law was annulled with the passage of a new Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right of Citizens of the Russian Federation to Participate in a Referendum» in September 1997. The Basic Guarantees law outlined a hierarchical structure of election commissions, formally recognized electoral associations and blocs as part of the political landscape, guaranteed the right of voters and candidates participating in the process, and developed fundamental principles for voting, counting and tabulation processes, among other innovations.

3. The Law on the Election of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation was enacted in 1995.

4. The Law on the Election of the Russian President of the Russian Federation was adopted in 1995. The Law for the election of the President has not yet been brought into compliance with the Basic Guarantees Law.

5. Substantial modifications and additions have been incorporated in the framework Federal Law «On Basic Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Rights of Citizens of the Russian Federation to Participate in a Referendum» through significant amendments which were adopted in March 1999. These changes guarantee more fully the constitutional right of Russian Federation citizens to elect and be elected to bodies of state power and bodies of local self-government.

6. The Federal law regulating the Duma elections «On the Election of Deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation» was signed into law by President Yeltsin on June 24, 1999. On August 9, 1999, the President decreed that the State Duma election be held on December 19, 1999. All 450 of the Duma's seats will be filled through this election - half by proportional representation through party lists, and half though single mandate districts.

7. The Presidential decree marked the official beginning of the campaign period for the Duma elections. This announcement was made concurrent with Yeltsin's removal of Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and the appointment of Vladimir Putin as Stepashin's replacement. Yeltsin went even further by designating Putin as his chosen successor in next summer's presidential election. Putin was confirmed as Prime Minister within days of his appointment.

8. While a good election law does not translate into well conducted, free or fair process, it is the framework within which the political actors must operate. It is essentially up to election administrators to ensure that these actors play by the rules of the game and that free and fair elections are conducted.

Scope of Election Administration infrastructure in Russia
Central Election Commission - 1
Subject Election Commissions - 89
District Electoral Commissions - 225
Territorial Election Commissions - 2,7000
Local Election Commissions (polling stations) - 93,000
Employing more than 1 million workers.

9. According to a public opinion poll published by the news organization Vremya, 26% of respondents indicated that they thought the 1999 Duma elections could be honest, 57% did not think so and 17 % were without opinion.2 Nevertheless, these figures indicate a higher level of confidence by the Russian electorate in the electoral infrastructure than in other authoritative bodies, such as the court system, legislative bodies, etc., indicative of the level of corruption expected in that society.

V. Activities of Political Parties and Blocs

1. According to Chairman of the CEC Veshniakov, who spoke at a meeting held with all registered Russian political associations, « The legitimacy of the future State Duma will largely depend on how accurately the norm of the new federal law will be observed by All-Russia political public associations, which are one of the main subjects of the electoral process» and «further development of Russia's electoral system is connected with the development of the multi-party political structure whose main link is formed by the political public associations.»

2. A new definition of the concept of an «electoral association» (political party) is contained in Article 32 of the Duma Election Law. The same article establishes the following restriction: electoral associations wishing to participate in the elections of deputies to the State Duma must be registered with the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation or introduce appropriate amendments in their charters not later than a year prior to the voting day (19 December 1998). 139 electoral association (political parties) are formally registered for participation in the Duma elections to be held on December 19, 1999.

3. Article 33 of the Duma Election Law establishes the status as well as the rules for the formation and registration of an electoral bloc, which has all the rights of an electoral association during the election campaign. A decision to join an electoral bloc must be taken at a congress (conference) of each of the electoral associations ready to form this alliance. Only after that can the appropriate joint decision be signed by the representatives of all electoral associations joining the bloc.

4. Under Article 36 of the Duma Election Law, electoral associations and electoral blocs participate in the election on equal terms and in keeping within the established rules.

A. Leading Political Parties/Blocs

1. Sergei Shoigu - «Modern Russia is a presidential republic, and we do not seek to change that, but we support greater balance through stronger legislative and executive branches and through increased regional self-government.»


Party List

Single Member District

Communist Party






Fatherland-All Russia






Union Of Right Wing Forces



Zhirinovsky Bloc



Woman of Russia



Our Home is Russia



2. Expected to clear 5% Hurdle


    COMMUNIST (Gennady Zyuganov)
    Top three on list - Gennady Zyuganov, Gennedy Selesnyov, Vasily Staroubtsev


    Top three on list - Sergei Shouigu, Alexander Karelin, Alexander Gurov

    FATHERLAND (Yuri Luzhkov-Mintimer Shaimiev, President of Tatarstan-Murtaza Rakhimov, President of Bashkiria)-ALL RUSSIA (Vladimir Yakovlev, Governors)
    also includes - AGRARIAN (Mikhail Lapshin)
    «The first instance of a voluntary (»horizontal» ) union of influential circles of the federal and regional elite not sanctioned by the Kremlin.»
    Top Three on List - Yevgeni Primakov, Luzhkov, Yakovlev


    YABLOKO (Grigory Yavlinsky, Vladimir Lukin)
    Allied with former PM Sergei Stepashin
    Slogans include «Ready for Power» and «Party of intelligent and honest power.»
    Top three on list - Yavlinsky, Stepashin, Lukin

2. Possibly will Clear 5% Hurdle


    Top Three on List - Kirienko, Nemtsov, Irina Khakamada




    OUR HOME IS RUSSIA (Viktor Chernomyrdin, Vladimir Ryzhkov and Boris Fedorov of Forward Russia)

B. Results of Election Polls conducted by VTSIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Center)

Parliament Elections

President Election

























Fatherland-All Russia
















Union Of R.W.








Zhrinovsky Bloc








Our Home is Russia








VI. Nomination of Candidates

1. Under the provisions in the Duma Election Law, electoral associations and electoral blocs may nominate candidates in single-mandate electoral districts (one candidate in one district) and a list of candidates in the federal electoral districts.

2. Federal lists of candidates may be nominated directly after official publication of the Presidential decree calling for Duma elections. When an electoral association or electoral bloc forms a federal list of candidates, it may, at its discretion, divide the list into a federal and a regional part. The federal part of the list may include not more than 18 candidates, while the regional part may be divided into regional groups consisting of one of or several subjects of the Russian Federation. The total number of candidates on a federal list must not exceed 270.

3. Under the new Duma Election Law, an electoral deposit may be paid instead of submission of the required number of signatures for registration of a federal list of candidates. The deposit must be paid out of an electoral fund with mandatory indication whose contributions are used to pay the electoral deposit. In the forthcoming election campaign, an electoral deposit for a candidate is 83,490 rubles ($3350). The electoral deposit for an electoral association or electoral bloc that nominates a federal list of candidates is 2,087,250 rubles ($83,500).

4. Among other regulations concerning the withdrawal of candidates from party lists, it is worth noting in the current political climate that if anyone from the top three of an electoral association removes his candidacy of his own accord, the whole list is disqualified.

5. Recent election legislation in the Russian Federation has illustrated an effort on the part of the election infrastructure in Russia to force more disclosure and provide more information to the electorate. It is not by coincidence that these requirements have been incorporated in the new Duma Election Law: their aim is to put up a legal barrier to penetration of criminal elements into bodies of power and prevent democratic state institutions from being discredited.

For example:

If a candidate has a conviction that has not expired and has not been canceled or if he/she has foreign citizenship, the candidate's statement of consent to run must indicate, respectively, the number and the name of the article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation on the basis of which he/she was convicted and must include information regarding foreign citizenship.

In order to register a federal lists of candidates, the Central Election Commission must be provided with full information regarding the amount and sources of incomes of each candidate and the property owned by them. This information is to be published in the mass media.

V. Campaigning (or Propaganda/Agitation)

1. A prominent place is occupied in the Duma Law, which regulates the election campaigning activities of electoral associations and electoral blocs.

2. Article 53 indicates that that election campaign season starts from the day on which a federal list of candidates is registered to midnight the day before the election. Failure to comply with the established campaign periods may serve as a reason for a refusal to register a federal list of candidates or for cancellation of the registration.

3. If an electoral association or electoral bloc misuses the freedom of mass information (warmongering propaganda or propaganda calling for violent seizure of power, inciting social, racial, national, religious hatred and enmity) the Central Election Commission must apply to a court for canceling registration of the federal list of candidates.

4. If an electoral association or electoral bloc violates other rules of election campaigning, the Commission may issue a warning to its authorized representatives, request law-enforcement and other bodies to put an end to this action or cancel registration of a federal list of candidates. These violations include: campaigning before a candidate or a federal list of candidates is registered; conducting charity activities in the course of the election campaign; campaigning in the territory of a military unit, in a military organization or institution; and, dissemination of printed, audio-visual election campaign materials without indication of the necessary data or without prior submission of these materials to an election commission.

5. Currently elected officials may be included in lists of electoral associations and blocs and may be elected as Deputies to the State Duma. These candidates are prevented by law from exploiting their current position to advance their political ambitions and sanctions, including the possible annulment of their registration, could result if they misuse their office.

VI. Campaign Finance

1. Under Article 50 of the Federal Law an electoral association, electoral bloc which registered a federal list of candidates may appoint up to 500 agents.

2. An electoral fund of an electoral association or electoral bloc must be formed not later than five days before the documents for registration of a federal list of candidates are submitted to the Central Election Commission. Special electoral accounts of electoral funds may be opened only at branches of the Savings Bank of the Russian Federation.

3. The maximum amount of money that can be spent from an electoral fund of an electoral association or electoral bloc is 41,745,000 rubles ($1,670,000). By law, a candidate for a single member district cannot spend more than 1,669,800 rubles ($65,000). The Duma Election Law as well as the Basic Guarantees Law prohibits election campaigns from being financed outside electoral funds by candidates, electoral associations or electoral blocs and by individuals.

4. A failure to file required financial reports might serve as a reason for a refusal to register a federal list of candidates or for cancellation of its registration.

5. The Central Election Commission will furnish financial reports of electoral associations and electoral blocs to the mass media

VII. Use of the Media

1. The TV and radio companies and the editorial offices of the print media founded (or co-founded) and financed by state bodies must provide free air time and free space to election commissions for clarifying electoral laws, informing voters about the periods and procedures for the performance of electoral actions and about the progress of the election campaign.

2. The Duma Law sets forth in detail the procedure for provision of free air time and free space by regional and national mass media to candidates registered in single-mandate electoral districts, regional groups of candidates and electoral associations and electoral blocs.

3. The dates and time for broadcasting free election campaign information are fixed by lot-drawing organized by the Central Election Commission for electoral associations and electoral blocs or by the election commissions of the subjects of the Russian Federation for registered candidates and regional groups of candidates. The dates of free publication of election campaign materials are fixed by means of lot drawing organized by the editorial office of the publication.

4. The Duma Law regulates the procedure of election campaigning carried out by candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs in the mass media on a paid basis.

5. Within 20 days after official publication of the presidential decree calling the Duma election, both state-owned and non-state-owned TV and radio companies and print media (their editorial offices) must publish the rates charged for air time and space to be provided for election campaigning purposes and must notify the Central Election Commission of Russia and the election commissions of the subjects of the Russian Federation of their readiness to provide air time or space. Without such publication, provision of airtime or space is not allowed. All TV and radio companies and editorial offices of print media which have published this information are obliged to provide air time or space for campaign purposes. The rates and the terms of payment must be the same for all candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs that wish to use these media outlets.

6. Another important requirement that is established for TV and radio companies during the Duma election campaign is that they must not give preference or publicity to any candidate, electoral association or electoral bloc during news programming.

7. TV and radio programs on the channels of state-owned and municipal TV and radio companies and editorial offices of print media must not make public (publish) information that may damage the honor, dignity or business reputation of registered candidates, if these TV and radio programs and editorial offices of print media cannot give these registered candidates a possibility to make public (publish) a denial in defense of their honor, dignity or business reputation before the end of the election campaigning period. The failure of these mass media sources to provide a possibility for registered candidates to make public (publish) a denial may serve as a reason for bringing to responsibility these TV and radio companies, editorial offices of print media and their officials.

8. If a TV and radio company, an editorial office of a newspaper or periodical violates the election campaigning rules provided in the election laws, an election commission may apply to law enforcement bodies, courts, executive bodies of state power which implement the state policy vis-a-vis the mass media and request them to stop the unlawful activities and to bring the TV and radio company or the editorial office to responsibility under Russian Federation laws.

9. The Duma Elections Law provides that electoral associations and electoral blocs which have not received the necessary number of votes according to the voting returns and have not taken part in the distribution of deputy mandates or which have recalled their federal list of candidates without any compelling reasons must fully compensate the TV and radio companies and the editorial offices of print media for the cost of free air time and free space provided to them.


1. As demonstrated herein, the legal framework with regard to the implementation of elections for the 1999 Duma exists - it is well thought out and abundant with detail. The problem is with the administration of the Duma election in a climate of corruption and control. Indicative, of the limited expectations for marked progress are the words of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoken on Knowledge Day to students at Moscow State University:

    Although the year 2000 will become the year our choice, we will not win a prize for it instantly. It will not be a year for fundamental turning point and transition to general peace and prosperity. It will not be a year when milk and honey start flowing throughout the country. It will not be a year when we leave everyone and everything in our wake and resolve the problems that have accumulated for decades. (Those who promise all this within a short period of time are charlatans). 3

1 French Press Agency, September 7, 1999

2 French Press Agency, September 7, 1999

3 Rossiskaya Gazeta, September 2, 1999

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