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SPP 331

Author: Richard Rose, Neil Munro and Stephen White
Description: To understand Duma elections we must recognize that Russian politicians have created a floating party system in which major parties come and go and independents are collectively a major "party". How voters react to the choices offered is analyzed using data from New Russia Barometer VIII, a representative nationwide survey conducted just after the election. While the electorate favours party competition, it cannot develop a stable party identification, for the rapid turnover of parties compels voters to float when the party they had voted for at the last election does not appear on the next ballot, and list parties do not fight a majority of single-member districts. In the 1999 Duma election, Communist and Union of Right Forces voters were clearly differentiated as pro and anti-transformation, while Unity, the party closest to Vladimir Putin, had a "fuzzy focus" appeal. A majority of votes appeared to reflect transitory support rather than long-term commitment based on social and economic interests. In single-member districts independents and the "against all" line together claimed an absolute majority of votes. The floating party system allows political élites to claim the legitimacy of election without the responsibility of accountability.

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CSPP School of Government & Public Policy U. of Strathclyde Glasgow G1 1XQ Scotland