Category Archives: Russia


Russia – Local and regional elections

On Sunday, elections were held in six Russian regions – Tuva, Magadan, Novosibirsk, Chelyabinsk, Kostroma and Belgorod. RIA Novosti reports that there were also mayoral elections in Samara, Makhachkala and Pyatigorsk, and city council elections in 14 regional capitals. About one-third of all electors were entitled to vote.

Unsurprisingly in a country that is not considered to be an electoral democracy, the ruling United Russia party did very well and will win everywhere.

ITAR-TASS is reporting that United Russia won more than 50% of the vote in Tuva, Belgorod, Kostroma, Magadan and Chelyabinsk regions, including 80.3% and about 77% in Tuva and Belgorod respectively. In Novosibirsk, United Russia is polling 44.2% of votes, but only 49% of the vote has been counted so far.

In terms of other parties, the report states: “The Communist Party reported the highest percentage of 25.6% in the Novosibirsk Region. The Communists passed a 7% election threshold in five regions, except for Tuva”.

Pravda is reporting that the nationalist Liberal and Democratic Party of Russia won 13.06 percent in the Magadan region, 9.75 percent in the Novosibirsk region, 9.27 percent in the Chelyabinsk region and 9.92 in the Belgorod region.

The Just Russia party won over ten per cent of votes in all six regional elections, including 16.7% in the Novosibirsk Region and 15% in the Chelyabinsk Region.

None of the other parties, which includes the more pro-Western parties, will gain any representation.

Russia – President sacks mayor of Moscow

RFE/RL is reporting that President Medvedev has issued a decree removing the mayor of Moscow from his position. Yury Luzhkov had been in office since 1992. At one point, he was the ‘natural’ successor to President Yeltsin before Putin became the Kremlin favourite. RFE/RL reports that tensions between Luzhkov and Medvedev had been increasing over the last few months. Given Moscow city hall controls so many resources, his dismissal is a major story in Russia.

Luzhkov’s departure is being placed in the context of next year’s parliamentary elections and then the presidential election almost immediately afterwards. There is a hint that the dismissal is part of a power struggle between President Medvedev and PM Putin as Luzhkov became close to Putin and Putin has remained silent about events. Moreover, a further RFE/RL report suggests that Luzhkov is not going quietly. In this context, the story may yet have wider repercussions.

Russia – Local and regional elections

Unfortunately, I do not speak Russian. I did study the language for two years at school, but my ‘B’ grade O Level does not give me the skills with which to decipher very much on the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation website. Therefore, when reporting on Sunday’s local and regional elections, I am reliant on what seem to be very partial and flimsy reports in English.

Anyway, I can tell you that local elections were held in 76 of Russia’s 83 regions spread right across the geographical range of the country. In addition, eight regions elected their regional legislatures. (Remember that regional presidents are now appointed by the President rather than being directly elected as previously). RIA Novosti reports the Central Election Commission as saying that the average turnout was 42.6%.

Obviously, given Russia is not an electoral democracy, the United Russia party did well. The highly majoritarian electoral system helps considerably in this regard too. However, its support did fall considerably. Moreover, opposition parties seem more satisfied with these elections than with the elections last year. Apparently, the four main opposition parties represented in the Duma will win representation in the regional legislatures too.

RIA Novosti quotes the following about United Russia’s performance: “Ahead of the elections, United Russia leaders expressed confidence that the party would gain more than 50% in each of the eight elections to regional legislatures, but the predominant power in the federal parliament appears to have fallen short of those expectations.

According to preliminary data, the party was supported by more than a half of those eligible for voting only in four of the eight regions, gaining around 62% in the southwestern Voronezh and about 53% and 50% in the Kaluga and Ryazan regions around Moscow. In the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area in northwest Siberia, where all ballots have been already counted, the party did better with 64% of the vote.

In the Khabarovsk Territory in the Far East, the Altai Republic and Kurgan Region in southern Siberia, and in the Sverdlovsk Region in the Urals, the party managed only about 48%, 44%, 41% and 40%, respectively.”

In the local elections, RIA Novosti reports the result in Irkutsk (Siberia) where the Communist party gained 62% of the voted compared with only 27% for United Russia.

There is an interesting, though somewhat cynical, commentary on the results at RFE/RL here. The bottom line is that in practice United Russia will retain almost complete control (executive and legislature) of almost all regional legislatures, major cities and towns. So, even though democracy did seem to be at work, it will have little impact on the governance of the system as a whole.

Russia – Putin signals return to the presidency

There has been a plethora of elections recently, so I am catching up on one or two items. Specifically, at the end of last week former President Vladimir Putin, now Prime Minister Putin, gave his clearest signal yet that he might be thinking of standing in the next presidential election, which is scheduled for 2012.

RFE/RL reports that during an annual televised phone-in show, Prime Minister Putin said “that he had no plans to leave politics and would consider running for president in 2012”. The report specifies: “Asked whether he would ever exit the political arena and pursue a quiet life, Putin deadpanned: ‘Don’t hold your breath.’ When he was later asked if he planned to run for president in 2012, he left the possibility open. ‘I’ll think about it’, Putin said with a wry smile.”

RFE/RL also reports President Medvedev’s reaction. He was in Italy meeting Silvio Berlusconi. When told about Prime Minister Putin’s comments, President Medvedev replied “Prime Minister Putin said he doesn’t rule out this possibility and I also say I don’t rule it out”.

In September President Medvedev left all options open. RFE/RL reports that he did not run out running himself for the presidency in 2012. “If I work well, if people trust me, why not run?”, he is reported as saying. However, when asked whether he was willing to swap jobs with Putin, he also said “I am ready to work in a different job as long as it is useful for the country”.

Russia – Local elections

On Sunday, local elections were held in Russia. RFE/RL reports that mayoral, regional, and district elections were held in 76 of Russia’s 83 regions. These included elections to Moscow city council, as well as the first ever municipal elections in Chechnya and Ingushetia. In total, there were about 7,000 elections and about 30 million people were eligible to vote.

Not having Russian, information is difficult to come by to say the least. Anyhow, given Russia is no longer an electoral democracy, it is unsurprising that the ruling United Russia party has done well. Russia Today reports that only in one place was United Russia’s dominance threatened. This was in the city of Rzhev, west of Moscow. Here, it reports, “the Communist Party of the Russian Federation took slightly more votes in the party list competition, according to preliminary results. However, even in Rzhev, United Russia took all seats in independent constituencies, as well as the mayor’s post”.

As for Moscow, RIA Novosti reports that the turnout was 35.5% with the following results: United Russia 66.3% (32 seats, plus all 17 directly elected seats); the Communist Party 13.3% (3 seats); the ultranationalist Liberal Democrats 6.14%; the leftist Just Russia party (5.14%); the liberal Yabloko party (4.7%); and Patriots of Russia (1.82%). The threshold for representation is 7%.

The same source reports that in Grozny (Chechnya) the turnout was 91.5% and that the acting mayor, Muslim Khuchiyev, won 87% of the vote.

In a previous post, I reported that President Medvedev was planning to reform the constitution to extend the president’s term of office. This happened late last year. The up-to-date version of the constitution in English can be found here.


SP in disputed areas and other territories (13) – Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)

This is another in a series of posts on semi-presidentialism in areas other than internationally recognised states. The focus is on areas with, or that have had, full constitutions, but ones that are not recognised as independent states. They may be territories that have declared independence but whose status has not been internationally recognised, or they may simply be self-governing units within or under the protection of another state.

The Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) declared its sovereignty on 27 September 1990. In December 1991 the first direct presidential election was held and Mikhail Nikolaev was elected winning over 76% of the vote. In December 1996 he was re-elected winning over 60% of the vote. In January 2002 Vyacheslav Shtyrov was elected with 59% of the vote in circumstances that highlighted the tensions between Putin and the Russian federal system.

The Constitution was adopted in April 1992. It was amended in 2008. In the meantime, the direct election of the president had been abolished. However, for a period of time the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) had a semi-presidential constitution.

Art. 67 stated that the president is directly elected.

Art. 83 made mention of a prime minister in the context of the government.

Art. 58 stated that the Supreme Soviet gives consent to the nomination by the president of the prime minister and the members of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Art. 82 stated that a vote of no-confidence in the Supreme Soviet shall entail the dismissal of the Cabinet of Ministers.

There is an article on the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in Europe-Asia Studies vol. 48, no. 1, 1996.

SP in disputed areas and other territories (11) – Bashkortostan

Another Russian Republic with a brief semi-presidential past is Bashkortostan.

The Constitution of the Republic of Bashkortostan was adopted on 24 December 1993. Unlike certain equivalent constitutions, the semi-presidential nature of Bashkortostan was unequivocal.

Art. 93 stated that the President shall be elected on the basis of universal suffrage and Art. 98 made it clear that impeachment was the only way to remove the President.

Art. 101 stated that the President forms the government and appoints the Prime Minister with the consent of the State Assembly.

Art. 102 stated that the government may request a vote of confidence and that it may be subject to a vote of no-confidence. The same article stated that if the vote of no confidence was passed, then the President shall dissolve the government and a new government shall be formed within two weeks.

There were three direct presidential elections in Bashkortostan, the first in 1993, the second in 1998, and the third in 2003. On each occasion, Murtaza Rakhimov was elected. RFE/RL reports that in December 2003 President Rakhimov won 43 per cent of the vote at the first round and 78 per cent at the second, so the election was quite competitive. In 2006 Rakhimov was appointed president under the new Federal legislation that ended direct elections at the sub-national level. So, as with the other Russian Republics, Bashkortostan is no longer semi-presidential.

SP in disputed areas and other territories (10) – Tuva

Yet another Russian Republic may have been semi-presidential for a period. In 1993 the Republic of Tuva passed its constitution. It is slightly unclear, but there is at least some basis to call the constitution semi-presidential.

Art. 70 of the constitution stated that the president shall be directly elected for a five-year term.
Art. 69 stated that the president was head of state and of executive power.
Art. 79 stated that the government shall consist of the head of government, ministers etc.
Art. 80 stated that the government must resign if the Supreme Hural (legislature) votes no-confidence in the government. Also, this article stated that the government is accountable to the president.

All of this seems to make Tuva semi-presidential. However, the complicating factor is that, in the translation I have (Raworth, Constitutions of Dependencies and Territories), Art. 73 (3) stated that the president is head of government. So, it is not clear that there was ever a separate position of prime minister. If not, then the system would not have been semi-presidential on the basis of the definition used in this blog.

Wikipedia reports that Sherig-ool Oorzhak was elected as president in 1993 and again in 1997. In 2001 the constitution was amended. The presidency was abolished completely, so that Sherig-ool Oorzhak could remain in power and avoid a term limit.

Russia – Succession speculation

According to RFE/RL on 11 November Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, announced that he was proposing legislation that would extend the president’s term from four to six years. He also proposed extending the Duma’s term from four to five years.

This announcement has reignited speculation about the possibility of Medvedev stepping down and Putin reassuming the presidency, presumably via a new election following a constitutional amendment. In that event, he would be in a position to hold office for 12 years.

The speculation is rife this time for two reasons. Firstly, the change in the length of the mandate might give Medvedev an excuse to call a new presidential election. He would then be free not to stand and let Putin contest the election. Secondly, the reform proposal dates back to Putin’s time as president. Therefore, it is seen as Putin’s reform rather than Medvedev’s.

More generally, the financial crisis has led some newspapers to criticise Putin as prime minister. If Putin feels that his authority is being undermined, then he may wish to reassert it by reassuming the presidency and this may be a convenient way to do so.

SP in disputed areas and other territories (9) – Republic of Adygea

As with a number of Russian Republics, the Republic of Adygea arguably had a semi-presidential constitution for a period.

The current constitution dates back to 1995. A copy in Russian can be found here. They key clauses are the following:

a.) The president is elected for a 5-year term, article 76(3). The president is empowered and steps down prior to the expiration of his term, by and according to the federal law (Article 76(1)).

b.) The president heads the cabinet of ministers and can dismiss it (84.2). The president appoints the PM with the agreement of the Council (legislature) 84.3. The Council has the power of a vote of no confidence (90.1). The president could ask the Council to reconsider, but if it still votes against the PM, deputy PM or any other member of the executive, they have to be dismissed (90.3-4).

This wording seems to be on the cusp of purely individual as opposed to collective responsibility, but Art. 90.1 is probably collective enough for the Republic of Adygea to be considered semi-presidential on the basis of the definition used in this blog.

However, a clarification is overdue. The kind person who translated the Russian text for me also reminded me that the Russian Duma passed a law in December 2004 that abolished presidential elections in Russia’s regions. Instead, they are now appointed by the Federal President. Therefore, any semi-presidentialism in the Republic of Adygea ended with the passage of that law because the president is no longer directly elected.

This point also applies to the previous post on Tatarstan. Apologies for the mistake.