The Russian State Duna in 1994-1997
Andrei Belyaev, Nikolai Biryukov, Leonid Gusev, Victor Sergeyev

The Russian State Duma in 1994-1997
The Making of Parliamentary Parties



evelopment of political parties is one of the focal problems of contemporary Russian politics. The political heritage of the one-party Soviet regime was hardly conducive to fast emergence of a viable multiparty system. The first two representative bodies of the perestroika and post-perestroika Russia, viz. the Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR (1989-1991) and the Congress of People’s Deputies of the RSFSR, later the Russian Federation (1990-1993) did without conventional party politics. The former was elected under the 1977 Soviet Constitution which, though substantially amended in 1988, still secured the Communist Party of the Soviet Union the status of “the leading and guiding force of Soviet society and the nucleus of its political system, of all state organisations and public organisations”.[1] The relevant Article 6 was only abolished in March 1990, right between the two rounds of the election to the republican Congress. No parties could possibly be established and registered quickly enough to join the run. Consequently, the factions formed in the Congress of People’s Deputies of the RSFSR (after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 the Congress, heretofore a regional assembly, became a body of sovereign legislative power) were loose formations, with comparatively small “nuclei” of genuine political confreres, which functioned like “deputy clubs” rather than as real parliamentary parties. The degree of control the faction leadership was usually able to exercise over its rank-and-file members was minimal, as was the leadership’s influence on their voting behaviour. It was customary for members of the same party to belong to different factions, and vice versa.

The constitutional reform that followed the dramatic dissolution of the Congress in 1993 provided for the State Duma, as the Russian legislature’s lower house has been henceforth called, to be elected on the mixed (half-proportional, half-majoritarian) basis. The proponents of the new electoral system argued that proportional representation would prompt formation of stable and influential political parties, generally regarded an essential requisite and an important resource of democracy.

This paper seeks to ascertain whether running for the Duma as “party lists” nominees has, in fact, helped consolidate parliamentary parties (factions) as nuclei of national political parties. Our conclusions will not be drawn from our “expert assessment” (which is really little more than intuitive understanding) of the situation, but will be substantiated by objective analysis of authentic and reliable data about the deputies’ voting behaviour allowing for verification.

This study is based on the computer analysis of roll calls in the Fifth (1994-1995) and Sixth (1996-1999) State Dumas[2] and pertains to the period between 1994 and 1997. When combined with the similar findings for the Second to Ninth Congresses of People’s Deputies of the Russian Federation (1990-1993),[3] this would provide us with comparable data spanning a substantial period of time, during which, moreover, a radical electoral reform took place.



Methods of Analysis


olitical homogeneity and solidarity of factions is an important aspect of parliamentary politics, one that affects the parliament’s entire political set-up.

To look closer into this problem, a computer database was created that compiled information on all roll calls in the Fifth and Sixth State Dumas between 1994 and 1997. The database provides easy access to the voting data both on particular issues or groups of issues and for individual deputies or groups of deputies. It has been supplied with special program tools with which to analyse and assess the concurrence of opinions within any arbitrarily chosen group of deputies as manifest in the vote.

Factions’ homogeneity was characterised by voting discordance distribution functions obtained by the following procedure. (1) All role calls data were presented as a master matrix filled with four symbols: “pro”, “contra”, “abstained” or “absent”. Matrix lines referred to deputies; matrix columns, to issues put to vote (see Table 1 in the Appendix). (2) By selecting certain lines and/or columns secondary matrices might be obtained showing vote of the selected deputies on the selected issues. (3) In the selected group of deputies (faction, in this case) the degree of voting discordance was established for each pair of deputies (in a group of n deputies the total number of pairs would be equal to ) as the percentage of the non-concurrent positions in their respective voting lines. (We found it more expedient to calculate the number of non-concurrent, rather than the number of concurring positions in order to prevent absenteeism from affecting the results too much). (4) The processed data were then presented in a diagram form with the degree of discordance shown on the category axis (ranging from 0 to 1), and the number of pairs sharing that particular degree of discordance, on the value axis (see Figures 1-49 in the Appendix).[4] 

Diagrams are vivid images of intrafaction political homogeneity. The voting solidarity is shown as diminishing from left to right, that is with higher degrees of solidarity closer to the value axis. If homogeneity were high, the distribution function would have a sharp peak in the segment of low degrees of discordance, i.e. closer to the value axis (as in Figure 3); if it were low, the peak would either shift towards higher degrees of discordance (as in Figure 14) or the function would become altogether “blurred” along the category axis (as in Figure 10). It was theoretically possible (and was, indeed, often the case) for two different groups to exist within the selected group: one, highly correlated; the other, displaying a low level of solidarity (see Figures 8 and 14).

Figures 4-23 and 28-41 show the distribution functions characterising voting solidarity/discordance of the factions and deputy groups in the Fifth and Sixth State Dumas as manifest in roll calls held in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997. Voting behaviour of independent deputies is shown in Figures 24-25 and 42-43; of the two Dumas’ entire deputy corps, in Figures 26-27 and 44-45. To get a comparative perspective, similar computations have been fulfilled for the Sixth Congress of People’s Deputies, 1993 (Figures 1-2), the German Bundestag, 1983-1987 (Figure 3).



Factions and Deputy Groups in the Fifth State Duma (1994-1995)


he Russian Constitution approved by the national plebiscite in December 1993 established a new legislative body, the Federal Assembly, consisting of two chambers, the State Duma and the Council of Federation. Election to both houses was held the same day. The new constitution provided for one half of the 450 seats in the Duma to be distributed proportionally between political parties (electoral blocks) that managed to overcome the barrier of 5 per cent of the national vote; the rest 225 seats were to be contested in majoritarian constituencies.

According to the Duma Rules, statuses of factions and deputy groups are different. A faction may only be established by a political party or movement whose electoral list got more than 5 per cent of the national vote. Deputies elected in majoritarian constituencies may either join some faction or organise a deputy group of their own, provided they are not less than 35. The Rules do not specify a faction’s minimal membership, though, considering the need to overcome the 5 per cent barrier, it cannot be less than 12 deputies on the Duma’s opening day. A faction is to function throughout the Duma’s term of power, regardless of changes in membership. A deputy group, however, is to be dissolved if its membership falls below the minimum.

Eight factions and initially one deputy group were formed in the Fifth State Duma. The factions were, in alphabetical order, those of the Agrarian Party of Russia (the APR), The Choice of Russia movement, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (the CPRF), the Democratic Party of Russia (the DPR), the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (the LDPR), the Party of Russian Unity and Consensus (the PRUC), the Women of Russia movement, the Yabloko (“the Apple”) movement. There was but one duly registered deputy group at first, New Regional Policies. Two other deputy groups organised in 1994, The Russian Way and The Union of the 12th December failed to meet the 35 membership requirement and remained unregistered. In 1995 two more deputy groups were registered, Russia and Stability. These were basically formed of the deputies that deserted The Choice of Russia, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Regional Policies (see Table 2 and Figure 51 in the Appendix).

The Agrarian Party of Russia (Agragnaya partiya Rossii, the Russian abbreviation, APR) was founded in 1992 at the All-Russian Congress of Collective Farms’ Workers by Agrarian Union (a faction of the Congress of People’s Deputies), the Agrarian Union of Russia and the Trade Union of the Agro-industrial Complex’ Workers. In 1993 election the party won 8 per cent of the national vote; besides, some 20 deputies were elected in majoritarian constituencies. The party and faction were led by Mikhail Lapshin. The faction had 51 seats. Its representative, Ivan Rybkin, was elected Chair of the State Duma (at the time Rybkin was considered an acceptable compromise figure). In addition to that, the faction chaired one of the key standing committees, that for legislation. The party failed to get the required minimal 5 per cent vote in the next, 1995, election and had no faction of its own in the Sixth Duma; it formed (with the support of the Communist Party) a deputy group, instead.

The constituent congress that founded The Choice of Russia movement (Vybor Rossii) was held on 16-17 October 1993. The movement was formed on the basis of the Alliance of Supporters of Reforms – Democratic Choice, an organisation that had been founded on 4-5 July 1992 at the initiative of the Democratic Russia movement and the Coalition of Reforms (an alliance of the pro-presidential factions in the Congress of People’s Deputies). At the time of its constituent congress The Choice of Russia included as its collective members the Association of Privatised and Private Enterprise, Democratic Russia, the Live Ring union, [5] the Peasants’ Party of Russia,[6] the Party of Democratic Initiative,[7] the Union for Protection of Military Servicemen Shield (Shchit) and some other organisations. The new electoral block elected Yegor Gaidar, former Acting Prime Minister, as its leader. It pledged support for Victor Chernomyrdin and his cabinet and was joined by a number of cabinet ministers and even some vice premiers. The movement’s party list (topped by Ye.Gaidar) got 15 per cent of the national vote, far less, indeed, than the leadership expected and promised to get. The Choice of Russia also won election in about 25 single-seat majoritarian constituencies. Its faction, numbering initially 70 members, was the largest in the Fifth Duma. It held the office of the First Vice Chair of the Duma and chaired a number of standing committees, including the defence committee. Later, however, the faction’s membership diminished sharply: by the end of 1995 it was deserted by more than 30 deputies who formed the core of deputy groups Stability and Russia. The development was basically due to the fact that The Choice of Russia lost its status of the “government” party, the role that passed to the newly established movement called Our Home Russia, and consequently lost a number of distinguished members, including most cabinet ministers and regional governors. By the time of the 1995 election the movement was transformed into a party that called itself The Democratic Choice of Russia. The party failed to overcome the 5 per cent barrier and only succeeded in having 7 of its nominees elected in majoritarian constituencies. These might not, under the circumstances, form either a faction or a deputy group and had to remain throughout the Sixth Duma’s term of power independent deputies. In 1999 the party joined the Union of Rightist Forces.

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (Kommunisticheskaya partiya Rossiiskoi Federatsii, the Russian abbreviation, KPRF) was founded in February 1993 at the Second Congress of Russian Communists following the Constitutional Court ruling that legalised the existence of primary party cells. The party has since been led by Gennadi Zyuganov, who has also headed its factions in the Dumas. In 1993 parliamentary election the CPRF party list got 12 per cent of the vote; 16 deputies were elected in majoritarian constituencies. As a result, the Communist faction in the Fifth Duma was not too numerous, 46 members. Faction members chaired a number of standing committees, including that for security (V.Ilyukhin); one of the Duma’s Deputy Chairs was also from among them. The faction proved one of the most consolidated: in the two years of the Fifth Duma it was deserted by no one.

Established in December 1990, the Democratic Party of Russia (Demokraticheskaya partiya Rossii, the Russian abbreviation, DPR) is one of Russia’ oldest (by Russian standards, of course) political parties. The party was initially founded and led by Nikolai Travkin. In the subsequent years the party drifted from extreme liberalism towards centrism and entered the 1993 electoral campaign as a clearly centrist political force. Its party list got about 5.5 per cent of the vote; a few deputies were elected in majoritarian constituencies. As a result, the party, with its 15 seats, formed the Fifth Duma’s smallest faction. Beside Travkin, the party leadership included such noted figures as Sergei Glaziev, Svyatoslav Govorukhin and Oleg Bogomolov. Glaziev chaired the Duma’s standing committee for economic reform. By the 1995 election the party split: some of its members, led by Travkin, joined Our Home Russia (Travkin later left OHR and joined Yabloko); some, headed by Glaziev, the Committee of Russian Communities; some rallied around Govorukhin who formed his own electoral block bearing his name. The latter failed to overcome the 5 per cent barrier, though Govorukhin himself (alone of the entire block) was elected in one of single-seat constituencies; rather than remain independent, he chose to join the Popular Power deputy group.

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (Liberal’no-demokraticheskaya partiya Rossii, the Russian abbreviation, LDPR) was founded in December 1989 (registered in March 1990) and became widely known after its leader, Vladimir Zhirinovski, joined the 1991 presidential run. Zhirinovski then came out third of six candidates, with 8 per cent of the vote. The party’s planks have always been eclectic, though, generally speaking, Liberal Democrats belong to the “patriotic” segment of the Russian political class. The 1993 parliamentary election proved to be the party’s “star hour”: with 23 per cent of the national vote, it was far ahead of all its rivals (The Choice of Russia got 15 per cent; the Communists, 12 per cent). Liberal Democrats were not particularly successful in majoritarian districts, however: only 11 of their nominees were elected. In spite of the spectacular victory of the LDPR party list, therefore, its faction in the Fifth Duma was only second to The Choice of Russia, 64 members on the opening day. It held deputy chairmanship of the Duma, as well as chairmanship of some committees, including the committee for ecology and natural resources. By mid-1995 the faction was deserted by about a dozen members who moved to Russia and Stability. Nevertheless, the faction remained one of the largest in the Fifth Duma. The electoral success of 1993 was not repeated in 1995, the first place going to Communists.

The Party of Russian Unity and Consensus (Partiya rossiiskogo edinstva i soglasiya, the Russian abbreviation, PRES) was founded on the eve of 1993 election at the initiative of Sergei Shakhrai, then Vice Premier. Though widely advertised as “the party of regions”, it was in fact another wing of the government party. Apart from Shakhrai, who became the party’s leader, it had among its members other cabinet ministers. Its electoral list got 6.5 per cent of the vote; a few deputies were elected in singe-seat constituencies. As a result, the faction had 17 seats in the Fifth Duma. Its members chaired a number of standing committees, though later on one of them, Konstantin Zatulin (the committee for CIS affairs), quit the party to join the DPR. When Chernomyrdin’s Our Home Russia was established in May 1995, the Party of Russian Unity and Consensus first joined it as a collective member, but before the next parliamentary election was held in December, the party split: its greater part, led by Shakhrai, left OHR; a smaller part, headed be Alexander Shokhin, stayed on (Shokhin would later become Chernomyrdin’s deputy). The 1995 election proved a disaster: the party barely got 1 per cent of the vote and quit the political scene, though some of its candidates, including Shakhrai, were elected in majoritarian districts.

The Women of Russia political movement (Zhenshchiny Rossii) was founded in October 1993, just before the election, on the basis of such organisations as the Union of Russia’s Women, the Association of Business Women, the Union of Navy Women. Its leaders were Alevtina Fedulova and Ekaterina Lakhova. The movement succeeded in getting 8 per cent of the national vote and having some of its nominees elected in single-seat majoritarian constituencies. On the Duma’s opening day the faction numbered 22 members. One of them was the Duma’s Deputy Chair. The 1995 election proved less successful: with 4.5 per cent of the vote (0.5 per cent less than required by the electoral law), the movement failed to have its party list nominees elected to the Sixth Duma. A few deputies, however, were elected in majoritarian districts and joined the Popular Power and Russian Regions deputy groups.

The electoral block later to be called Yabloko was formed in October 1993 on the basis of the EPI-Centre (Centre for Economic and Political Studies) headed by Grigori Yavlinski. The block was joined by the Republican Party of the Russian Federation, the Social Democratic Party of Russia, the Russian Christian Democratic Union and some independent trade unions. The nickname “Yabloko” (“the Apple”) was introduced as an expansion of the abbreviation composed of the first letters of the three top names in the block’s electoral list: Yavlinski, Boldyrev, Lukin. (In 1995 Yuri Boldyrev left Yabloko over an issue he judged to be of considerable political importance, but the name would “stick”.) In 1993 election Yabloko got 7 per cent of the national vote and had a few more deputies elected in majoritarian constituencies. Its faction numbered 27 members and held the office of the Duma Deputy Chair and chairmanship of the important committee for international affairs (headed by Vladimir Lukin, former Russian ambassador to the USA).

The New Regional Policies deputy group (Novaya regional’naya politika, the Russian abbreviation, NRP) was organised soon after the Fifth Duma met in January 1994 by deputies elected in majoritarian constituencies. Its members emphasised regional problems as their primary concerns and styled themselves as managers rather than politicians. The group sided with Chernomyrdin’s cabinet on most practical issues. Its leader was V.Medvedev, Chairman of the Union of Oil Industrialists. Artur Chelengarov, a distinguished polar explorer and an NRP member became Deputy Chair of the Duma; the group’s other members headed some standing committees. By the 1995 election the group was transformed into a movement called Russian Regions which joined the electoral block of I.Rybkin

By spring 1995 two more deputy groups were organised and registered in the Fifth State Duma, viz. Stability and Russia (numbering 35 and 36 members. respectively). They were formed of the deputies that deserted from The Choice of Russia, the DPR, the LDPR, the PRUC factions and the NRP group. Their members were on various party lists in the 1995 election; some were elected in majoritarian constituencies and, when in the Duma, mainly joined the Russian Regions deputy group.



Factions and Deputy Groups in the Sixth State Duma (1996-1999)


ore than 40 electoral blocks participated in the December 1995 parliamentary election, but only four succeeded in beating the 5 per cent barrier. These were the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Our Home Russia and Yabloko. Beside these four factions, three deputy groups were registered: the Agrarian Deputy Group, Popular Power and Russian Regions (see Table 3 and Figure 52).

The incontestable victor of the 1995 election was the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Its party list got 22.3 per cent of the vote, 57 deputies were elected in single-seat constituencies. As a result the CPRF was not only able to form the largest faction of the Sixth State Duma (139 seats), but could even “delegate” a considerable number of its members to the Agrarian and Popular Power deputy groups. As the Duma’s largest faction, the Communists had their nominee, Gennadi Seleznev, elected Chair, and another nominee, Svetlana Goryacheva, Vice Chair of the Duma. They also procured chairmanship of key standing committees, including those for security, legislation and economic reform.

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, though second to the Communists, was far behind in terms of the actual vote (11 per cent). It failed, moreover, in most majoritarian constituencies, having only one of its nominees elected. This setback was largely due to the protesting electorate shifting its favours unto Communists. The faction, now numbering 50 members, proved, however, more consolidated than before. Like every other faction in the Sixth Duma, Liberal Democrats were allowed to nominate their Deputy Chair of the Duma and got their share of standing committees, chairing those for mass media and geopolitics.

The Our Home Russia movement (Nash dom Rossiya, the Russian abbreviation, NDR) did not participate in the 1993 election, as it was only founded in May 1995. The movement was sponsored by such industrial giants as Gazprom, Lukoil and the UPS (the United Power System of Russia) and supported by many regional governors and cabinet members. It was meant to be the “government party” and was led by none other than Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin. According to the plan worked out by the presidential administration, loyal political forces were to run for the Duma organised into two electoral blocks, the right centrist and the left centrist. The idea was to mobilise the bulk of the electorate by appealing to different strata of voters and together win the majority of Duma seats. OHR was to play the role of the Right Centre; the block led by I.Rybkin, the Fifth Duma Chair, the Left Centre. The plan did not avail, however, since the very idea of an electoral block that, while remaining loyal to the ruling regime, could engage the support of the protesting electorate proved stillborn. The block of I.Rybkin split even before the election. With only 1 per cent of the vote, it failed to get access to the Duma . OHR itself, despite massive support from various quarters, including that of the administration, got only 10 per cent of the vote, less than Liberal Democrats and less by far than Communists. However, having 25 of its nominees elected in majoritarian constituencies, the movement proved able to form the second largest faction in the Sixth Duma, 65 members strong. OHR nominated its deputy Chair of the Duma (initially, A.Shokhin; since 1997, V.Ryzhkov) and was granted its quota of committees, including those for defence and for interethnic relations. Since Chernomyrdin, who topped the movement’s electoral list, retained the office of Prime Minister and was thus obliged to decline his seat in the Duma, the faction had to be headed by someone else. At first its leader was Sergei Belyaev. In 1997, however, Belyaev brought charges of bureaucraticism against the movement’s leadership, resigned from his office and left the faction. He obviously counted on taking a considerable number of faction members with him and forming a deputy group of his own. His hopes were thwarted, however. Belyaev was replaced by Alexander Shokhin, whose office of Deputy Chair passed to Vladimir Ryzhkov. (By 1999 Shokhin, too, would despair of the movement’s electoral success and quit the faction.) Another blow to the faction was dealt by General Lev Rokhlin, chair of the defence committee, who left OHR in 1997 and established his own Movement for the Support of the Army (Dvizhenie v podderzhku armii, the Russian abbreviation, DPA). Rokhlin managed, with the support of Communists and their allies, to retain chairmanship of the defence committee till May 1998, much to the indignation of OHR, as this violated the terms of the gentleman’s agreement concerning distribution of Duma offices between factions reached when the Sixth Duma opened in 1996. Eventually, he was replaced by a loyal OHR member Roman Popkovich. These and other scandals prevented Our Home Russia from effectively playing the role of “government party”. When in 1998 Chernomyrdin lost his office of Prime Minister, the fate of OHR was sealed.

The Yabloko party list got 7 per cent of the vote, just like in 1993. 15 Yabloko nominees were elected in majoritarian constituencies. The faction had 44 seats, the office of Deputy Chair and chairmanship of some important committees, including those for international affairs (V.Lukin) and for budget and finance (M.Zadornov and since 1988, when Zadornov was appointed finance minister, A.Zhukov).

As pointed above, the 1995 parliamentary election proved a disappointment to the Agrarian Party of Russia. Its list got only 3.5 per cent of the vote, and the party was not entitled to a faction of its own. Though it had 20 deputies elected in majoritarian constituencies, these were not enough to form even a deputy group. The Agrarians were saved by the Communists who “delegated” the necessary number of their own deputies to meet the minimal requirement of 35 members. The Agrarian Deputy Group (Agrarnaya deputatskaya gruppa, the Russian abbreviation, ADG) was headed by Nikolai Kharitonov, as M.Lapshin, who was on the party’s electoral list, failed to get a seat. (Lapshin won a supplementary election later on, in 1998, but Kharitonov retained his post). The group got chairmanship of two committees, though one of them (the rules committee) was actually headed by a delegated CPRF member.

One more deputy group, Popular Power (Narodovlastie) (44 seats) had to draw on Communist support. Its core consisted of deputies of the Russian National Union (Rossiiski obshchenarodny soyuz) led by Sergei Baburin and of the Power to the People movement headed by former USSR Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov that were elected in majoritarian constituencies. Both electoral blocks failed to pass the 5 per cent barrier and their “majoritarian” deputies, even united, were not numerous enough for the deputy group to be duly registered. The additional members were again “delegated” by the Communists. The faction got deputy chairmanship of the Duma and chairmanship of some committees, including those for CIS affairs and for culture. Depending on the CPRF for its very existence, Popular Power supported it on all major issues.

As mentioned above, the Russian Regions movement was formed on the basis of the Fifth Duma’s New Regional Policies deputy group. It joined I.Rybkin electoral block and shared its defeat. However, Russian Regions had enough candidates elected in majoritarian constituencies to form their own deputy group. The group had 42 seats and was headed by Oleg Morozov. Artur Chelengarov was reelected Deputy Chair of the Duma; other group members chaired committees for health and for North areas.

The State Duma elected in 1995 had less factions than the Fifth (four instead of eight), but its largest faction, the CPRF, had almost twice as many seats as the largest faction of the Fifth Duma: 139 as compared with 70 of The Choice of Russia (Figure 50). The number of registered deputy groups remained as its was, though two of the three were not really independent, owing their existence to the Communists. The latter thus commanded 216 votes, almost half the deputy corps. It should be noted, moreover, that factions and deputy groups of the Sixth Duma escaped major splits. The result was in all probability due to more careful selection of nominees, both for party lists and majoritarian districts. Unlike December 1993, the 1995 election was regular and the contestants, at least the successful contestants, had plenty of time to prepare. Whatever the reasons, the Sixth State Duma factional set-up was more definite and more stable than ever before.



Dynamics of Intrafaction Solidarity


nalysis of roll calls at the Congresses of People’s Deputies (1990-1993) revealed that none of their factions could properly be called homogeneous. The voting discordance distribution function would typically reach its maximum for discordance degrees ranging between 30 to 60 per cent (see Figure 1[8]). This meant that most group members voted in accord only on 4 to 7 issues out of 10. The low intrafaction solidarity was best attested by the fact that no substantial difference was to be observed between the voting discordance distribution functions of a typical Congress faction, on the one hand, and of a group of deputies selected at random, on the other hand (cf. Figures 1 and 2). On the contrary, the difference with the German parliament was striking. German Social Democrats appear to have voted in accord on practically every occasion (see Figure 3). The voting solidarity in the other four factions of the Bundestag was even greater.[9] It were these observations that were behind our assertion (on the opening page of this paper) that factions of the Congress united people who could be called political confreres only in the most vague sense of the word. They might hold similar views on general issues and might, moreover, sympathise with each other, but they were ill-prepared for a consolidated political effort.

The situation reflected the dim character of the Russian political spectre of the time: absence of strong political parties outside the parliament and virtual independence of faction members from those parties that existed. Elected under majoritarian law, the Congress deputies, regardless of what political forces nominated and supported them before and during the election, were bound neither by effective party discipline nor by loyalty to loose and transient political movements. Factions themselves were highly unstable: their memberships were constantly in shift, both in terms of individual composition and in terms of numbers. A considerable number of deputies joined no faction at all.

When various constitutional proposals were debated in 1993, advocates of proportional (or semi-proportional) representation argued that party lists would stimulate consolidation of political parties and help structure the national political spectrum. The more immediate outcome would be increased homogeneity of parliamentary factions. Let us see whether these expectations were justified.

As our analysis of roll calls reveals, factions of the Fifth State Duma (1994-1995, Figures 4-23) hardly differed in that respect from those of the Congresses of People’s Deputies (1990-1993, Figures 1-2), but substantial changes took place in the Sixth Duma (1996-1997, Figures 28-41).

In 1994 the largest factions of the Fifth State Duma, viz. The Choice of Russia and Liberal Democrats, demonstrated precisely the same level of intrafaction solidarity as a “typical” faction of the earlier Russian legislature. The peaks of their distribution functions were to be found within the discordance range of 0.4 to 0.6, for the former (Figure 6); and of 0.3 to 0.5, for the latter (Figure 12). In other words, most members of the leading pro-government faction voted in accord as seldom as on 4 to 6 occasions out of 10, while most members of the leading opposition faction, as seldom as on 5 to 7 occasions.

The Agrarian Party (Figure 4), Yabloko (Figure 18) and New Regional Policies (Figure 20) displayed similar results. Slightly higher, 5 to 8 votes out of 10, was the level of Women of Russia (Figure 16); slightly lower, 3 to 6 votes, those of the Democratic Party (Figure 10) and independent deputies (Figure 24). The close resemblance between distribution functions computed for the entire deputy corps of eight factions and three deputy groups (Figure 26) and for most individual factions, including the two major ones, leads to the conclusion that the character and type of party politics was little affected by the December 1993 parliamentary election.

The highest and lowest levels of intrafaction solidarity were demonstrated by, respectively, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Party of Russian Unity and Consensus. The Communists’ function peaked at the discordance level of 0.2; in other words, most faction members voted in accord on 8 occasions out of 10 (Figure 8). The relatively high level of Communist solidarity is easily explained by the fact that Communists were at the time Russia’s only political party with mass followership, traditions and organisational experience. But even they were not without dissenters, as manifest from a sharp peak at the discordance level of 0.9 (same figure). This means that there was a group of faction members who voted in accord with the rest only on one issue out of ten.

As to the minor PRUC faction, role calls reveal that this was, ironically, a party of neither unity nor consensus. It was, moreover, an imaginary rather than a real party: peaks within discordance range of 0.3 to 0.5 (solidarity vote on 5 to 7 issues out of 10, typical, indeed, of a randomly selected group) appear insignificant when contrasted to the pinnacle, almost twice as high, at the discordance level of 1.0 (Figure 14). This was a record hard to beat: about half faction members never (!) voted in accord. A party of such “confreres” was doomed to disappear soon and without issue.

A year later the situation was somewhat different. Four factions out of eight improved their solidarity level in 1995 as against 1994. On the CPRF diagram (Figure 9) the discordance peak shifted from 0.2 to 0.15, but, more important, the peak at the 0.9 level disappeared: the “dissenters” were back to the ranks. Liberal Democrats were decimated by desertions, but the remaining deputies demonstrated higher solidarity than before: 7 to 8 votes out of 10 (Figure 13) as compared to 5 to 7 in 1994. Yabloko and Women of Russia also improved: the former, to 65-85 per cent (Figure 19); the latter, to 70-85 per cent (Figure 17). It is worth mentioning that it would be these parties, capable of further consolidation, that would (with the sole exception of Women of Russia) be reelected to the next Duma.

The parties that failed to consolidate their parliamentary factions in the two years of the Fifth Duma’s term of power would lose the next election. In 1995 the Agrarian Party of Russia, The Choice of Russia, the Democratic Party of Russia and the Party of Russian Unity and Consensus displayed a level of solidarity that was not higher or was only slightly higher than in 1994 (Figures 5, 7, 11, 15). The PRUC, it was true, got rid of its notorious peak at the 1.0 level (most probably, at the expense of desertions), but on the whole its intrafaction solidarity remained low. New Regional Policies did not improve, either: as in 1994, the faction’s voting behaviour was characterised by the normal distribution curve (Figure 21). The same stands true of the newly registered Russia and Stability (Figures 22-23) and, more naturally, of the independents (Figure 25) and the deputy corps as a whole (Figure 27).

The level of intrafaction solidarity increased noticeably in the Sixth State Duma. Like in the Fifth Duma, the highest level was demonstrated by the Communist Party: in 1996 the distribution function characterising its members’ voting behaviour reached maximum at the discordance level of 0.1, i.e. most faction members voted in accord on 9 occasions out of 10 (Figure 28). The peak shifted somewhat right (towards higher degrees of discord) in 1997, but on the whole the faction’s solidarity did not fall below the level attained in the Fifth Duma, viz. 8 solidarity votes out of 10 (Figure 29).

Liberal Democrats improved significantly. The increase in their voting solidarity started already in the Fifth Duma, though in all likelihood at the expense of a considerable membership loss. In the Sixth Duma Liberal Democrats, though still behind Communists, were concerted enough: 8 votes out of 10, in 1996 (Figure 30); 7 to 8 out of 10, in 1997 (Figure 31). Like the CPRF, the LDPR performance proved slightly worse in the Duma’s second year, but was still better than in the previous legislature. Nevertheless, the LDPR 1996 distribution function differed conspicuously from that of the CPRF in having noticeable increases within the ranges of relatively high (0.4 to 0.5) and very high (0.9 to 1.0) discordance. Though the area below the curve’s respective portions was but a minor share of the total area under the function’s curve, it was not negligently small. It indicated that a certain, though relatively small, part of the faction’s members voted differently from the rest. In 1997 the rightmost peak, the one indicating the highest level of discord, disappeared.

The dynamics of intrafaction solidarity of the two remaining factions of the Sixth State Duma, Our Home Russia and Yabloko, differed from those of the Communists and Liberal Democrats. Whereas the CPRF and the LDPR solidarity decreased somewhat in 1997 as compared with 1996, but remained on the whole relatively high, solidarity of OHR and Yabloko increased, but still did not reach the level of the “Patriotic Left”. In 1996 the pro-government Our Home Russia was characterised by a modest level of 6 to 7 solidarity votes out of 10, moreover with a low, but pronounced peak near the 100 per cent discordance point (Figure 32). In 1997 the graph’s major peak remained largely where it had been, i.e. within the range of 0.3 to 0.4 discordance (6 to 7 solidarity votes out of 10), but the secondary peak of very high discord was replaced by a low, though protracted, “tail” in the range of 0.5 to 0.8 discordance (Figure 33).

Yabloko increased its intrafaction solidarity insignificantly: from 6 to 7 solidarity votes out of 10 in 1996 (Figure 34) to 7 in 1997 (Figure 35). The change is more conspicuous when the 1997 graph is compared to that of 1995 (Figure 19) and greater still, when compared to 1994 (Figure 18), but still not too impressive.

Of all the three deputy groups of the Sixth State Duma only Agrarians displayed something that might be properly called “solidarity” (though even they were well behind their Communist “sponsors” in that respect); the word appears largely irrelevant when applied to Popular Power and Russian Regions. The Agrarian Deputy Group voted in accord on 6 to 9 issues out of 10 in 1996 (Figure 36) and on 7 to 8 issues out of 10 in 1997 (Figure 37). The Popular Power diagrams (Figures 38-39) reflect the group’s heterogeneous membership. By 1997 this heterogeneity transcended the bounds of political propriety, with the distribution function showing a significant increase within the range of 0.7 to 0.9 discordance (1 to 3 solidarity votes out of 10) and a striking peak close to the 1.0 point (no solidarity votes). This indicates that Popular Power had in fact been a coalition of two essentially different groups which practically separated by 1997. As to Russian Regions, in 1996 the group demonstrated a level of solidarity characteristic of New Regional Policies, its predecessor in the Fifth State Duma (Figures 40 and 20-21). However, even that low level of intragroup solidarity decreased in 1997, with appreciable peaks emerging within the range of maximal discordance of 0.75 to 1.0 (Figure 41).



Discussion and Conclusions


he above findings indicate some consolidation of the Sixth State Duma factions as compared with those of the Fifth Duma and the Congresses of People’s Deputies. It remains to ascertain whether this consolidation was due to the electoral reform that replaced the purely majoritarian system of the 1990 election with the mixed proportional-majoritarian system with a 5 per cent access barrier of the 1993 and 1995 election. Or, to put it otherwise, whether the transition to the semi-proportional system with its need to choose between party lists stimulated emergence of new political parties and contributed to their strengthening.[10] 

The data relating to 1994, the Fifth State Duma’s first year of power, indicate that there was no immediate change in the type and character of the deputies’ voting behaviour following introduction of the new electoral system. The intrafaction solidarity, as manifest in roll calls, remained largely as it had been in 1990-1993 with the deputies elected under majoritarian system. The obvious conclusion is that there is no direct correlation between electoral rules and intrafaction cohesion and that proportional representation as such does not encourage party-building.

On the other hand, increased voting solidarity demonstrated by the factions of the Sixth State Duma suggests that parliamentary parties gradually mature, promising to become nuclei of national political parties, and that proponents of the proportional representation were eventually justified in their expectations.

The contradiction allows of two solutions. One should either agree that the proportional system does help consolidate parliamentary parties and then undertake to explain away the low solidarity, manifest in the Fifth Duma, or disagree and look for some other explanation for the increased cohesion of the Sixth Duma factions.

There are arguments to support the first alternative. One might recall that the election to the Fifth State Duma was actually held in a situation of crisis, when the country and its political class had not yet recovered from the shock following the dissolution of the Congress of People’s Deputies and the shooting of the White House;[11] that both the voters and the political elite were inexperienced in the new electoral system and lacked the appropriate skills;[12] that many parties and electoral blocks had been established right before the election, including four (out of eight) that got elected;[13] that there was no time for a proper election campaign and that party lists were compiled in great haste and included many chance names. In other words, consolidation of parties had not really commenced and, if it had, could have had no visible consequences yet. The explanation seems to fit the facts.

But one might look at the situation from a different angle. Granted that in the two years that passed between elections to the Fifth and the Sixth State Dumas politicians of all ranks learned from experience and accommodated themselves to the new situation; granted that party leaders became more careful about electoral lists and that rank-and-file deputies realised that in order to get on those lists they should demonstrate loyalty to their leadership. Granted all these, consolidation of parties followed its own course, nevertheless, and depended not so much on the election rules as on the general political situation and, first and foremost, on the natural strengthening of opposition amid worsening crisis and growing popular discontent. For it were precisely the opposition factions, the CPRF, the LDPR and, to a lesser extent, Yabloko, that demonstrated considerable intrafaction consolidation; the principal pro-government factions, The Choice of Russia, the PRUC and Our Home Russia, on the contrary, failed to consolidate. Moreover, as the 1994-1995 distribution functions show, at least, in the former three cases consolidation was observed between the elections. It appears reasonable therefore to relate it not so much to election campaigns, whatever their rules, as to broader political experience acquired in the course of parliamentary work.

Both explanations appear plausible. More research is needed to solve the issue. Additional light might be shed by comparing voting behaviour of deputies from party lists with voting behaviour of those faction members who stood for the Duma in majoritarian districts. This has been done, but the findings are inconclusive. Thus, Figures 29, 46 and 47 seem to indicate that, at least as far as Communists were concerned, the level of intrafaction solidarity depended largely on the voting behaviour of the faction’s party list core, whereas deputies elected in majoritarian constituencies were less disciplined. The latter were evidently responsible for the “tails” that appeared in 1997 within the ranges of relatively high (0.5 to 0.7) and very high (0.9 to 1.0) discordance. But a similar comparison of OHR distribution functions does not support that conclusion: neither the peak near the 1.0 discordance point in 1996 (Figures 32 and 48), nor the “tail” in the range of 0.5-0.7 discordance in 1997 (Figures 33 and 49) disappear upon exclusion of the “majoritarian” deputies. It thus seems hasty to assert that “party list” deputies (elected under proportional rules) are generally more consolidated than “single-seat” deputies (elected under majoritarian rules). One might object, at this point, that Our Home Russia was a very specific party. Unlike the CPRF, LDPR and Yabloko, who owed their influence to their voters, OHR openly drew on the executive support, both in the capital and in the provinces. It would be natural, the argument might continue, for its deputies to behave differently from those of the mass or would-be mass parties. However it may be, the issue remains undecided.

But, at least, one thing appears obvious. Consolidation of political parties proved to be a longer and far more complicated process than envisaged by the Third Republic[14] founding fathers. The 1993 constitutional reform, undertaken at the risk of a major national crisis, was meant to result in prompt crystallisation of a stable system of political parties in which supporters of the reforms begun in 1992 would be clearly predominant.

Our analysis of role calls in the Fifth State Duma, however, attests to the contrary. It was the “reformist” part of the Russian political elite that demonstrated the lack of coordination and solidarity to be rivalled, perhaps, by none, except the factions of the dissolved Congress of People’s Deputies. Consolidation of parliamentary parties ensued in fact only after the next parliamentary election in December 1995 and mainly among the opposition. Pro-government parties remain ephemeral: the role assumed by The Choice of Russia in 1993 passed to Our Home Russia in 1995 and was contested by the Fatherland-All Russia block and Unity in 1999. The latter emerged victorious from the last election, but there is every reason to doubt that it will prove more lucky in the long run than its predecessors.

Proportional representation is still a point of controversy. Many parties and electoral blocks ran for parliament under the present electoral law; most faded away, just a few survived. In fact, there have been only three parties to gain representation in all the three Dumas, viz. Communists, Liberal Democrats and Yabloko. To these the Agrarian Party of Russia should be added. It lost the election in 1995, but returned to the Duma in 1999. Since these were, with few exceptions, the only factions with positive solidarity dynamics (the Agrarians, it will be remembered, failed to improve from 1994 to 1995, but did improve, albeit as a deputy group, not a faction, from 1996 to 1997), one might reasonably assert that the ability or inability to consolidate parliamentary parties (factions) was decisive as far as the party’s re-election chances were concerned. On the contrary, political forces that failed to consolidate their parliamentary factions in the course of routine parliamentary work were forced out of parliament.




Belyaev A., N.Biryukov, L.Gusev, V.Sergeyev (1999), Gosudarstvennaya Duma v 1994-1997 gg.: Stanovlenie sistemy parlamentskikh partiy [The State Duma in 1994-1997: The Development of Parliamentary Party System] (in Russian), Moscow: MGIMO-University (Centre for International Studies Research, Vol. 16).

Biryukov N. and V.Sergeyev (1997), Russian Politics in Transition: Institutional Conflict in a Nascent Democracy, Aldershot, Hants.; Brookfield, VT; Singapore; Sidney: Ashgate Publishing.

Constitution (1985), Constitution (Fundamental Law) of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics. Adopted at the Seventh (Special) Session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Ninth Convocation, on 7 October 1977, Moscow: Novosti Press Agency.

Sergeyev V., A.Belyaev, N.Biryukov, Ya.Dranyov and J.Gleisner (1995), “Voting in the Russian Parliament (1990-93): The Spectrum of Political Forces and the Conflict between the Executive and the Legislative”, Journal of Behavioral and Social Sciences, No. 2 (special issue on “Parliamentary System and Presidential System in Crisis), pp. 66-108.

Sergeyev V., A.Belyaev, N.Biryukov, Ya.Dranyov and J.Gleisner (1999a), “Voting in the Russian Parliament (1990-93): The Spectrum of Political Forces and the Conflict between the Executive and the Legislative” (in Japanese), in R.Shiratori (ed.), Institutional Approach to Politics: Parliamentary and Presidential System, [Tokyo:] Ashi Publishing Co., pp. 137-180.

Sergeyev V., A.Belyaev, N.Biryukov, L.Gusev (1999b), The Making of Parliamentary Parties in Russia: The State Duma in 1994-1997 (in Russian), Polis (Politicheskie issledovaniya), No. 1, pp. 50-71.

[1]      Constitution 1985 p. 16.

[2]      There are no generally accepted ways of indicating particular convocations of the State Duma yet. The Duma elected in December 1993 and in session in 1994-1995 was the first legislature of that name in recent Russian history and is, consequently, sometimes referred to as the First State Duma; the Duma elected in December 1995 and in session in 1996-1999 would then be the Second one. However, the State Duma was also the name of the lower house of the prerevolutionary Russian legislature. Between 1906 and 1917 four Dumas were elected, conventionally referred to as, respectively, the First (1906), the Second (1907), the Third (1907-1912) and the Fourth (1912-1917) ones. That would make the 1994-1995 Duma, the Fifth; the 1996-1999 Duma, the Sixth; and the present (elected in December 1999) Duma, the Seventh. This paper uses the latter numeration.

[3]      The findings were first presented at the International Symposium on “Presidential System and Parliamentary System in Crisis” (Tokai University Pacific Center, Honolulu, HI, 3-6 November 1994) and published in Sergeyev et al. 1995 (the Japanese translation, Sergeyev et al. 1999a) and as Chapter 7 of Biryukov and Sergeyev 1997.

[4]      Voting discordance distribution functions may be used to characterise the degree of voting solidarity not only within a chosen group of deputies, but also of any two such groups. In the latter case the voting line of every deputy of one group is to be compared with the voting line of every deputy of the other group.

[5]      A political organisation that united the defenders of the White House (then the seat of the Russian Congress of People’s Deputies) during the August coup of 1991.

[6]      Not to be confused with the above mentioned Agrarian Party of Russia.

[7]      Never to be heard of since.

[8]      Communists of Russia were selected to exemplify intrafaction homogeneity on the ground of their close affinity to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, whose faction in the Fifth and Sixth State Dumas appeared to demonstrate the highest voting solidarity of all. We limited our examples to the Sixth Congress of People’s Deputies (April 1992) as the Russian parliament’s “star hour” (for detail, see Biryukov and Sergeyev 1997, pp. 133-155 and 220-238).

[9]      Other Bundestag factions appeared even more consolidated. However, what deviations from the “party line” there were, seem not to exceed the permissible limit of operator mistakes. (Roll calls are rare in the Bundestag, and the computations were fulfilled on data spanning several years; the data had to be entered into the computer manually).

[10]     It is an open secret that the new system, introduced in 1993 at the initiative of the self-professed democrats (who clearly expected to profit from the reform and win an overwhelming majority in the future Fifth State Duma), was sharply criticised by those very “democrats” in 1995, the year of election to the Sixth Duma, for its allegedly antidemocratic character. That criticism increased even more in the subsequent years, gaining fresh support from the regional governors in the Council of Federation, although met with little sympathy by the majority of Duma deputies.

[11]     President Yeltsin’s decree on “On the Step-by-Step Constitutional Reform in the Russian Federation” providing for suspension of the Congress of People’s Deputies and the Supreme Soviet and a major change of electoral rules was made public on 21 September 1993. The crisis reached its climax on 3 October 1993, when a mob of anti-Yeltsinist demonstrators penetrated through lines of riot militia to the White House (then the seat of the Russian parliament), and resolved a day later after troops loyal to the President attacked and recaptured it. The referendum on the new constitution and election to both the State Duma and the Council of Federation were held on 12 December 1993 (for detail, see Biryukov and Sergeyev 1997, pp. 190-209).

[12]     Russia’s last experience of proportional representation dated back to 1917, when election to the Constituent Assembly was held.

[13]     Viz. The Choice of Russia, the Party of Russian Unity and Consensus, Women of Russia and Yabloko.

[14]     By this we mean the political regime established in Russia after the 1993 crisis and constitutional reform. The “First Republic” would then apply to the regime that existed between 16 March 1917, the day following the abdication of Nicholas II, and 7 November 1917, the Bolsheviks’ coming to power (or 19 January 1918, the day the Constituent Assembly was dissolved by the Bolsheviks after only 13 hours in session). The “Second Republic” would refer to post-Soviet Russia of 1991-1993. Neither of these terms is conventional, though.