POL354 Lecture 20 – Presedential Elections
Thursday, March 8, 2012
There is widespread consensus in Western literature that elections are the most vital
component of democracy.
Requires a market of open and fair competition regulated by a preset and agreed upon set of
rules. The parties that poll the most votes come to form a government.
The rules for presidential elections are straightforward – all individuals registered as candidates
must be at least 35 years of age, must be Russian citizens and must have had 10 years of
conescutive residency in the Russian federation prior to the election.
Initial constitution granted the president a 4 year term with two successive terms. Nominations
can take place in 2 ways – parties who hold seats in the Duma may nominate candidates for the
presidency. Alternatevly an individual can gather 2 million signatures – requirement of a large,
distributed, popular base.
The winner of the race is one who acquires a simple majority. The presidential elections are
critical in the sense that the Constitution of the Russian Federatoin gives disproportionate
power to the executive and because the presedential election is direct and thus the position
holds that much more authority and legitimacy.
The issue of presidential elections was a critical one in the post-Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union
there also had never been a popularly elected chief executive. The president of the country was
largely a symbolic figure and elected by the pressidium of the supreme soviet.
Under Gorbachev we begin to see a change in this pattern largely because Gorbachev is
responding to the realities that face him and less so because of any vision of any popularly
elected head of state. Gorbachev enhances the position of president significantly and
establishes a number of acts that give the president power – but in reality he is unable to
exercise power and authority because of the political vacuum.
At the same time that Gorbachev was attempting to establish his own power through the
presidency, Elstin is elected as chair of the Congress of People’s Deputees.
April 1991 – conducts a referendum over having a directly elected president. Popular election is
held in June 1991 in which Yelstin wins.
1993 – Elstin’s new Constitution. Elstin resists pressure to have an election in December 1993
which would coincide with the election of the first Duma. There is increasing pressure on him
because his term was ending – unconstitutional in refusing to call an election.
In early 1996 Elstin was polling in the single digits and it was increasingly evident that Elstin was
in poor health.
Spring 1996 – decision made to hold the first presidential election. Initially 78 individuals
indicated their readiness to run for the position. Only 17 were able to acquire the number of
signatures – only 11 candidates approved to run. Elstin loans money from oligarch banks with the understanding that if the state defaults on its
loans the property will be auctioned off by the banks and the state will lose its property.
Key to understanding Yelstin’s victory is his oposition – really only one significant oponent who
is the head of the socialist party Zyganev. Elstin, in the media, associated Zyganev with Stalin.
The first round resulted in no individual candidate achieving a simple majority. Elstin gets
second round majority.
Mikhail Gorbachev ran in the first presidential election – bad results.
Elstin wins the first election, it was a relatively free and competitive election. The next regularily
scheduled presidential election was to be in June 2000. Remember the economic collapse, social
disorder and unemployment, 1998 August financial meltdown, and corruption of the financial
institutions associated with the 90s and Elstin.
By this time Elstin was despised, and tragically associated with democracy. ‘What was being
done was being done in the name of democracy’.
There were attempts to impeach Elstin.
The 2000 election is critical because it signals the first succession of power from one executive
leader to another. Everything went wrong in terms of an open/competitive process.
In 1998-99 Elstin had dismissed and apointed a series of prime minisiters.
August 1999 – Putin appointed prime minister of the country and this marks a turning point in
the direction the country was going to take.
Series of bumboings of three apartment buildings in Moscow, Voldvonot, and Rizan. Evidence
suggests that Putin was behind or at the very least knew about the bombings. Putin takes a
stand and blames Chechens and uses extreme rhetoric in terms of demonizing the Chechens. In
addition there was an incursion by Chechen forces in to Gagestan with the purpose of
establishing a muslim state. There is circumstantial evidence that it was a set up by Putin.
Whether this was a set up or whether Putin took advantage of circumstances – Putin used them
to represent himself as a strong and decisive head of state whose over riding goal and talent will
preserve the Russian Federation.
December 31 1999 – Elstin, was told to/chose to resigned. This moved up the election. Mr. Putin