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Versty No. 149

Russia Enters the Year of Parliamentary Elections

By Marina Shakina

Russia is holding parliamentary elections in 2003. Like the Olympics they are held every four years.

The 1993 elections witnessed the collapse of Russia's Choice, the favourite at the time, and the victory of a "dark horse" - the LDPR. The authorities were shocked by the 1995 election results owing to the return of the Communist party as the leading force. The 1999 elections represented a breakthrough for the Unity party, which overshadowed the traditional success of the Communists. What will 2003 bring?

Only ten years ago most of the population took part in elections. Nowadays, however.. Last year, only 29 percent of voters bothered to take part in the elections to the parliamentary assembly in St. Petersburg, considered the second most "politically active" city in the country after Moscow. This marked a record low for participation in local elections. However, unlike the West, more participate in federal elections in Russia than in local elections.

The key issue in the impending elections revolves around the winner in the race between United Russia and the left wing party - the former or the latter? Both have announced ambitious plans to obtain a landslide majority in the State Duma.

In 1999, the Communists, together with their allies, obtained 24.29% of the votes and achieved less than a one-percent lead over the Unity party (23.32 percent). However, this year Unity will have the Fatherland and All Russia parties as its allies...

The traditional high results of the Communist party are no longer attractive to many gamblers in the political process v it is not exciting when the participants in the race always finish in the predictable order. That is why many people secretly hope the Communists will fail this time.

However, many other people hope this will happen to United Russia v to show them that they can't endlessly manipulate the electorate. And, of course, everybody hopes to see some surprises and changes in electoral views.

The second issue is nothing new. It has been developing for the past eight years and has become a real irritant. However, the most dedicated observer still hopes to see a conclusion: will the SPS and Yabloko be able to finally unite and therefore expand democratic representation in the parliament?

Especially knowing that starting from the year 2007 the parties will have to overcome a 7% hurdle to enter tje State Duma, instead of the present 5%. So far, the protracted engagement of the SPS to Yabloko indicates that nothing is likely to change.

The third issue concerns whether the LDPR, which has become more ostentatious over the past few years, will be able to retain its 5% representation quota. The survivability of the party led by Zhirinovsky is a unique Russian phenomenon, which even surprises its leader and founder

The fourth issue relates to the possibility of a daring challenger to the major political players the electoral scene, akin to Unity in 1999.

Another question should be raised: how many parties will take part in the parliamentary race, overall? How effective will President Putin's efforts be to create a civilized and modernized political structure in Russia? Today's electoral law, which allows only registered political parties to participate, is more stringent than previous versions. In 1993, for example, 13 political organizations and blocs fought for seats in parliament. In 1995 - 43. In 1999 - 26.

By the beginning of December 2002, 20 parties had managed to fully register (each party has 45 regional branches). However, they still have to collect signatures...

See also:
State Duma elections 2003


Versty No. 149

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