"You Tell Me it's the Institution"

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Title: "You Tell Me it's the Institution" Executive-Legislative Dynamics, Electoral Reform, and the Party of Patronage in Putin's Russia
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Scheible, Joshua C.
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2012
Publication Date: 2012


Subjects / Keywords: Russia
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theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
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Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: The quality of executive-legislative relations in the Yeltsin and Putin eras stand in stark contrast. Whereas the Yeltsin era was characterized by parliamentary gridlock and legislative bargaining, the Putin era has seen the president pass his agenda unfettered. During Yeltsin tenure no party ever held a majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, under Putin one party has dominated unchallenged. This study examines the institutional changes that have accompanied this transformation and assesses their efficacy as explanations of the dramatic changes in executive-legislative dynamics. Specifically, the influences of the 1993 constitution and Putin's 2005 electoral laws are considered. This study finds that institutional analyses do not explain the Russian case and an alternative explanation, offering the broader context of Putin's centralizing strategies, is offered.
Statement of Responsibility: by Joshua C. Scheible
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2012
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Hicks, Barbara

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
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Classification: local - S.T. 2012 S3
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Material Information

Title: "You Tell Me it's the Institution" Executive-Legislative Dynamics, Electoral Reform, and the Party of Patronage in Putin's Russia
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Scheible, Joshua C.
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2012
Publication Date: 2012


Subjects / Keywords: Russia
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: The quality of executive-legislative relations in the Yeltsin and Putin eras stand in stark contrast. Whereas the Yeltsin era was characterized by parliamentary gridlock and legislative bargaining, the Putin era has seen the president pass his agenda unfettered. During Yeltsin tenure no party ever held a majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, under Putin one party has dominated unchallenged. This study examines the institutional changes that have accompanied this transformation and assesses their efficacy as explanations of the dramatic changes in executive-legislative dynamics. Specifically, the influences of the 1993 constitution and Putin's 2005 electoral laws are considered. This study finds that institutional analyses do not explain the Russian case and an alternative explanation, offering the broader context of Putin's centralizing strategies, is offered.
Statement of Responsibility: by Joshua C. Scheible
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2012
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Hicks, Barbara

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2012 S3
System ID: NCFE004666:00001

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"You Tell Me It's The Institution": Executive-Legislative Dynamics, Electoral Reform, and the Party of Patronage in Putin's Russia BY JOSHUA C. SCHEIBLE A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Political Science/Economics Under the sponsorship of Dr. Barbara Hicks Sarasota, Florida May, 2012


ii Table of Contents Introduction 1 Chapter I: The House That Yeltsin Built 5 The Collapse of the USSR and the Roots of the Russian State 6 The Turbulent Beginnings of Russian Democracy 13 Executive-Legislative Balance in the 1993 Constitution 15 A Regime-Type Classification of the Russian Constitution 21 Privatization, Oligarchs, and the Duma 23 Table 1.1: Convocations of the State Duma 25 Yeltsin's Bargaining Strategies in the Duma 28 Conclusion: Superpresidentialism Without Presidential Superiority? 30 Chapter II: Institutional Engineering and Party Dynamics in the Duma 33 Table 2.1: Party Factions in the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Dumas 34 Proportionalizing Electoral Reform and Legislative Behavior 34 Mandate Type, Deputy Behavior, and Legislative Incentives 38 Putin and the Third Duma: SMD Deputy Deviance 42 Putin's Centralization Agenda: The Fourth Duma 46 Impacts of Institutional Engineering on the Fifth Duma 52 The Limits of the Electoral Reform Explanation 53 Chapter III: The Creation of Putin's Dominant-Party Regime 56 Engineering Regional Deinstitutionalization 58 Managing the Competition: Putin's Illiberal Electoralism 63 Putin Versus the Oligarchs: The Phony War 71 United Russia: The Dominant-Party Patronage Regime 78 Russian Politics? What Russian Politics? 85 Chapter IV: Conclusion 87 Works Cited 98


iii "YOU TELL ME IT'S THE INSTITUTION": EXECUTIVELEGISLATIVE DYNAMICS, ELECTORAL REFORM, AND THE PARTY OF PATRONAGE IN PUTIN'S RUSSIA Joshua C. Scheible New College of Florida, 2012 ABSTRACT The quality of executive-legislative relations in the Yeltsin and Putin eras stand in stark contrast. Whereas the Yeltsin era was characterized by parliamentary gridlock and legislative bargaining, the Putin era has seen the president pass his agenda unfettered. During Yeltsin tenure no party ever held a majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, under Putin one party has dominated unchallenged. This study examines the institutional changes that have accompanied this transformation and assesses their efficacy as explanations of the dramatic changes in executive-legislative dynamics. Specifically, the influences of the 1993 constitution and Putin's 2005 electoral laws are considered. This study finds that institutional analyses do not explain the Russian case and an alternative explanation, offering the broader context of Putin's centralizing strategies, is offered. Dr. Barbara Hicks Political Science


iv List of Abbreviations CPD: Congress of People's Deputies CPRF: Communist Party of the Russian Federation CPSU: Communist Party of the Soviet Union PR: Proportional Representation PSA: Production Sharing Agreement RSFSR: Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic SMD: Single Member District


1 Introduction The early years of Russia's transition to democracy were turbulent and unpredictable. The myriad political, economic, and social upheavals that brought the USSR to its knees did not disappear after it had ceased to exist. The young Russian state inherited an economy in crisis, a divided society, and a set of new political institutions created in the twilight of the Gorbachev era. Russian president Boris Yeltsin had radical plans for creating a new economic order, but he was faced with incorrigible opposition from elements of the former regime. In 1993, Yeltsin proposed a new constitution that created a new legislature for the Russian Federation, the Federal Assembly. Having fought a literal battle against the previous legislature, Yeltsin made sure that this constitution would create expansive powers for the president vis-a-vis the lower and larger house, the State Duma. Even though Yeltsin's constitution was ratified, and contained the substantial executive powers he had hoped for, his control over the new dlegislature seemed little better than it had been before. Throughout his tenure as president, Yeltsin was consistently opposed by the State Duma. Many important elements of his agenda faced deadlock, and those which he did pass did not come easily. Under


2 Yeltsin, no faction ever gained an outright majority in the Duma, and parliamentary politics were characterized by diffused and fractionalized political power. By the mid-2000s, executive-legislative relations under the presidential administration of Vladimir Putin could not have provided a starker contrast to the Yeltsin era. By his second term as president, Putin enjoyed the support of a pro-presidential party that commanded more than two-thirds of the seats in the Duma. Putin's agenda passed with ease through the lower house of parliament, and the president encountered virtually no effective resistance from parliamentary opposition. In fewer than ten years, executivelegislative relations in Russia had been transformed from one extreme to another. This study seeks to explain how this transformation took place. On the surface, these drastic changes in the internal composition of the Duma and its power vis-a-vis the president already seem unusual, but these results become especially surprising when one considers the institutional contexts in which these Dumas operated. Under a strongly presidential constitution, Boris Yeltsin was unable to overcome the opposition to many of his policies in the Duma. The office of the presidency saw no constitutional expansion of power in the early years of the Putin era, yet he still was able to assure lockstep majorities for his legislative priorities. The rules structuring presidential-parliamentary balance in the Duma had not changed, but the composition of the Duma had. The fact that Putin's United Russia party went on to dominate the Duma so comprehensively would seem unlikely given the weakness and multitude of parties that had occupied the Dumas under Yeltsin. There was, however, a significant institutional


3 change to the Duma during the Putin era that might explain the dominance of one party. Putin instituted electoral reforms that altered the allocation of seats by mandate type in the Duma. Where previously elections to the Duma were conducted under a mixed electoral scheme, Putin changed the electoral laws so that all seats in the Duma were allocated by the same electoral mandate type. Under the mixed system, half of the Dumas were elected by a single-member district (SMD) mandate, running for office in a discreet geographical area where they had to receive a plurality of the votes to be seated. The other half of the seats were allocated by party-list proportional representation (PR), where parties competed nationally for a percentage of the vote and then received a number of seats based on that percentage. Putin's reforms switched the Duma's mandate to full proportional representation. According to the prescriptions of mainstream theories on electoral law and parliamentary behavior, this change should have created a more pluralistic Duma with a wider ideological spectrum and a greater number of parties. Instead, Putin's United Russia went on to dominate the elections and the Duma outright, achieving an invincible supermajority. Considering the institutional contexts, the transformation of the Duma becomes even more puzzling. Why was Yeltsin unable to control the Duma in the way that Putin has? How did electoral reforms that should have created a more open and pluralistic Duma lead to the outright dominance of one party? The following chapters will address the ways in which these institutional changes influenced internal dynamics in the Duma and the Duma's relationship with the executive branch. In doing so, they will assess the applicability of institutional analyses to the Russian case and the efficacy with which


4 such analyses can explain the changes in the composition and autonomy of the Duma. Finally, the broader political and economic context of the Putin era will be considered in an effort to assess what confounding variables could also have acted on the character of legislative politics under Putin. This study finds that the dramatic evolution in the character of executive-legislative relations in the Russian Federation is not attributable solely to institutional dynamics and must be understood as part of greater centralizing trends under Putin.


5 Chapter I: The House that Yeltsin Built This chapter will address the foundation and character of the Russian Federation's current configuration of political institutions under the 1993 constitution. The events that led to the emergence of an independent Russian state and the conflicts that provided the impetus for the formation of a new constitutional order will be explained to elucidate the historical context in which these new institutions were created. An examination of the specific provisions that structure executive-legislative dynamics under the 1993 constitution will be followed by a consideration of the application of regime-type analysis to the Russian case. Evidence from Boris Yeltsin's tenure as president will be presented to assess how well the application of regime-type analysis captures the reality of the Russian case and what, if any, insights it may provide into the current lopsided executivelegislative relations under the presidential administrations of Vladimir Putin. Throughout the chapter, the impact of Yeltsin's liberalizing economic reforms on the distribution of economic power in post-Soviet Russia and its influence on legislative behavior in the State Duma will be discussed to provide necessary background on the political-economy


6 context encountered by Vladimir Putin upon his accession, and subsequent election, to the presidency. The Collapse of the USSR and the Roots of the Russian State The course of events that led to the formation of Russia's contemporary institutions began during the death throes of the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s, the world watched in wonder as communism collapsed across Europe. In country after country, the parties that had ruled for decades with little impediment folded in the face of intransigent popular opposition. For much of the Soviet bloc the narrative was similar: long-time party elites presiding over ossified political and economic systems that simply could not keep pace with the demands, desires, or expectations of their citizens. But the circumstances were somewhat different in the Soviet Union. In 1985 the USSR was introduced to the youngest, most dynamic new leader it had seen in generations. Mikhail Gorbachev, a dedicated socialist and ardent admirer of Lenin, came into power with a vision of reinvigorating the Soviet Union. As the new general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Gorbachev originally intended to reform and revitalize the existing institutions of the Soviet Union in an effort to combat the economic decline and social malaise that characterized the Brezhnev era (McFaul 2001, 34). While the story of the Soviet Union's ultimate collapse is complex and hardly attributable to one root cause, the political and economic reforms pursued by Gorbachev during his tenure as General Secretary of the CPSU (and later President of the USSR)


7 were the catalyst that set in motion the unraveling of a superpower. Gorbachev's original intent was not to introduce new political institutions to the Soviet state, but rather to enact widespread economic reform through the USSR's only real mechanism for change; the upper echelons of the CPSU. A protŽgŽ of Yuri Andropov, Gorbachev was familiar with the stagnation of the Soviet economy by the time he came to power. His initial proclivities, ironically, were actually to tighten central control over the economy. This enhanced oversight would be coupled with a decentralization of enterprise financing, encouraging enterprises to operate efficiently. By 1987 though, these incremental steps had not manifested change in the Soviet economy and Gorbachev introduced a more radical plan for the Soviet economy. Perestroika called for a restructuring of the Soviet economic system. Gorbachev paired his proposals for perestroika with a relaxation of regulations on political speech and media known as glasnost or "openness". The intended effect of these two platforms was a rejuvenating expansion of social and economic freedom that Gorbachev hoped would revitalize and democratize the Soviet system (Gorbachev 1995, 185). Early measures of perestroika included enhancing the autonomy of enterprise directors in setting prices and output targets and the legalization of private cooperatives, but the ultimate objectives and methods of the perestroika program remained unclear, perhaps even to Gorbachev himself (McFaul 2001, 42). Owing partly to the unclear ideological orientations of perestroika Gorbachev did not find much enthusiasm for his program of dramatic economic restructuring within the Politburo or the Secretariat of the Central Committee. Regardless of the overtly socialist rhetoric that peppered


8 Gorbachev's speeches, perestroika was bound to upset the Soviet economy's status quo in acute ways. This threat to the status quo alienated the more conservative factions that dominated these institutions. Furthermore, Gorbachev's proposals for increased autonomy and accountability for enterprises represented an unwelcome erosion of power for party officials. Gorbachev's response to this opposition was, at the outset, fairly similar to those of his predecessors. He purged the Politburo and the Central Committee of much of his conservative opposition through both formal and informal changes, including the convening of a Party conference for the first time since 1941 (McFaul 2001, 45). Despite the massive turnover in the party elite, Gorbachev was convinced that for his reform agenda to be enacted, he would have to pressure the party elites both from above and from below. This led Gorbachev to consider and then to implement significant institutional reforms in an attempt to mobilize and empower supporters of economic reform. These reforms included the creation of a new popularly and directly elected legislative body, the Congress of People's Deputies (CPD) from which a more powerful Supreme Soviet would be selected. Congresses of People's Deputies were also created at the republic level to create more democratic mechanisms for republic-level governance. This idea was easily justified by claiming the resurrection of the Bolshevik legacy and the familiar revolutionary slogan "Power to the Soviets" (McFaul 2001, 48). This newly emboldened legislature was accompanied by the creation of a new, elected executive office that would co-opt the executive power of the party for the state, the Soviet presidency.


9 The Congress of People's Deputies was created by constitutional amendments at the twentieth session of the Supreme Soviet in 1988. The amendments specified a process for the first election that would take place in 1989. One-third of the seats in the new body were reserved for CPSU-sponsored social organizations and the other twothirds were open to popular elections, though no new political parties were allowed to form. The party also maintained strict control over the nomination procedures for prospective deputies, making the first elections to the Congress of People's Deputies far less than open, but far more competitive than anything previously seen in the USSR. After the first election of the Congress of People's Deputies in 1989, Gorbachev moved quickly to secure his election to the positions of chairman of both the Congress and the Supreme Soviet. These two executive positions, in addition to his position as General Secretary of the CPSU still did not provide Gorbachev with the insulation he wanted from conservative challengers. While Gorbachev intended for his reforms to rejuvenate and strengthen the Soviet Union, the new openness in political society led to the exposure of long-simmering tensions in the Soviet Union. It is beyond the scope of this study to examine the multiplicitous nationalist sentiments, territorial disputes, social and economic maladies and political malaise that brought the Soviet Union to its knees, but by 1990 there was a sense that events were beginning to spiral out of control. While Gorbachev's reforms had weakened the traditional instruments of Soviet power, the institutionalization of the new mechanisms of popular governance had not yet been solidified, engendering an intense diffusion of authority that subverted federal control of


10 the USSR. With protests in the streets, calls for independence in the Baltics, and greater republic-level discontent with the Soviet system manifesting itself daily, Gorbachev realized the velocity with which the bonds holding the Soviet Union together were deteriorating. He moved swiftly to propose a new Union treaty that would fundamentally restructure the character of federal-regional relations in the Soviet Union and allow for greater autonomy for its constituent republics (Gorbachev 1991, 14-5). Gorbachev saw the negotiation of a new Union treaty as the only way to preserve his course of liberalizing reforms. With newly emboldened republics asserting greater and greater authority over their affairs and displaying harsher rhetoric towards the federal center, Gorbachev feared that a delay in accommodating their desires for sovereignty would lead to greater political chaos in the USSR (Gorbachev 1991, 54-5). Employing a new institutional mechanism of perestroika, Gorbachev attempted to take his case to the Soviet people in a nationwide referendum on the negotiation of a new Union treaty. While the idea of a new Union treaty was given popular affirmation in this referendum, the results were ambiguous. Several republics, including the present-day Baltic states refused to hold the referendum. The Russian referendum was of particular importance. While the Russian people had voted in favor of a new Union treaty that was not the only change for which they voted. The chairman of the Russian Congress of People's Deputies, the prominent populist and reformist politician Boris Yeltsin, had used his office to append another provision to the Russian referendum. In addition to deciding the favorability of the Union treaty, the referendum also contained a question about the


11 creation of a new executive office, the presidency of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Russians voted overwhelmingly in support of the creation of the republic presidency. The first elections for the Russian presidency were held in June 1991, and Yeltsin won with a convincing 57.9% of the vote (McFaul 2001, 97-104). Attempting to stem the rising tide of opposition both from the republics and the hardline elements of the Soviet regime, Gorbachev traversed the breadth of the USSR negotiating a new federation treaty with republic executives. Abandoning his previous strategy of categorical opposition to Soviet authorities, Yeltsin entered into negotiations for the treaty with Gorbachev. Recognizing Gorbachev's relative weakness, Yeltsin figured he could extract significant concessions from the federal center in the name of Russian sovereignty. The resulting 9+1 Accord, signed by Yeltsin and the leaders of nine other republics, was meant to enhance republic sovereignty while entrusting the central Soviet government with responsibilities over defense, foreign policy, and inter-republic trade. The deal met stiff opposition from the democrats who had coalesced around Yeltsin, but it drew even greater ire from conservative officials in the Soviet regime. The Union Treaty was set to be signed on August 20 th 1991, but hardline elements within the Soviet regime did everything they could to stop it, sounding the death knell for the prospects of preserving the Soviet Union. On August 18 th Gorbachev's Vice President, Gennady Yanayev, the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Anatoly Lukyanov, and the so-called "Gang of Eight" that was comprised of high-level military and security officials spearheaded the "State Emergency Committee" that deemed Gorbachev unfit to lead given the "extremist forces" and "political adventurers" who were conspiring to


12 destroy the USSR (McFaul 2001, 106-7). Gorbachev, who was vacationing in the Crimea, was imprisoned in his vacation home by the Soviet military, where General Valentin Varennikov demanded his resignation in person (Gorbachev 1991, 18-28). Meanwhile, back in Moscow, Yanayev had declared himself acting president of the USSR. The August Putsch gave Yeltsin the opening he needed to establish the primacy of his own authority as Russian president over that of the crumbling Soviet regime. Yeltsin declared the plot unconstitutional and appealed to the Russian people to follow his decrees over those of the Emergency Committee. On August 19 th Yeltsin decreed that all instruments of the Soviet executive were under the command of the Russian president until an emergency session of the Congress of People's Deputies could be called. He also called for Russian military units to follow his commands over those of the Soviet generals. By the day after the putsch began, popular resistance efforts against it in Moscow had rallied thousands to the White House (the building which housed the Supreme Soviet) and many military units that the Emergency Committee had dispatched to maintain order had pledged their allegiance to Yeltsin. After three days, Gorbachev returned and the plotters were out, but Yeltsin emerged the clear victor in the eyes of the Russian public. Gorbachev spent several months attempting to salvage his authority, and the existence of the USSR, but the results of the August Putsch were too clear to be denied. Popular support had shifted decidedly away from the Soviet regime and Yeltsin and the Russian state were seen as the legitimate government of the RSFSR's territory.


13 Throughout December 1991, Yeltsin negotiated several accords with other republic leaders that proclaimed the dissolution of the Soviet Union. On December 25 th 1991, Gorbachev ceded his powers to Yeltsin, officially ending the USSR. The Turbulent Beginnings of Russian Democracy After the downfall of the Soviet Union, Russian president Boris Yeltsin and his administration attempted to continue the liberalizing economic reforms that they had started in Russia before the collapse, but they encountered resistance in the former Soviet institutions that the new Russian state had inherited. Yeltsin still battled against a powerful communist opposition in the Supreme Soviet that fought diligently against the neoliberal reforms put forth by his administration. He selected Yegor Gaidar to design a rapidly implemented market-oriented economic program, commonly called "shock therapy," for the new Russian state. Starting in January 1992, just days after the collapse of the USSR, Gaidar initiated price and trade liberalization, a massive contraction of state spending, and a tight monetary policy at the nascent Central Bank (McFaul 2001, 144-5). As soon as the economy had stabilized, the plan went, there would be privatization of the Russian state's massive inheritance of state-owned industry from the USSR. That January, prices for consumer goods skyrocketed, with inflation hitting 18% (McFaul 2001, 249). These reforms were met with instant scorn from communists in the Supreme Soviet who insisted on preserving price controls and rolling back market-based reforms. As the year wore on, the economic situation deteriorated, and Yeltsin faced increasing


14 scrutiny. By December, Gaidar was out and Yeltsin was distancing himself from his program. The growing conflict over privatization and market-oriented reforms between Yeltsin and the communist opposition in the Supreme Soviet culminated in September and October 1993 with a dramatic constitutional crisis. Yeltsin had been trying for some time to pass a new constitution for the Russian Federation. While he had initially invited leaders from the opposition in the Supreme Soviet to the Constitutional Conference that he had started, most opposition members abandoned the conference when they realized the extent to which it was dominated by Yeltsin. The Supreme Soviet passed several laws attempting to curtail Yeltsin's efforts to force his administration's draft into law. Frustrated by the resistance he received in the Supreme Soviet, Yeltsin took matters into his own hands and issued Presidential Decree 1400. The contents of the decree far exceeded Yeltsin's constitutional authority. The decree dissolved the Congress of People's Deputies and the Supreme Soviet and proposed a popular ratification of Yeltsin's draft of the constitution and new legislative elections. The Supreme Soviet refused to accept the decree owing to its blatant unconstitutionality, and convened a session of the full Congress of People's Deputies on September 23 rd in which Yeltsin was impeached and declared unfit for office. The Congress then appointed Aleksandr Rutskoi president. Rutskoi proceeded to form a government that the Yeltsin administration, unsurprisingly, did not recognize. Yeltsin moved to affect the dissolution of the Congress by force, dispatching military regiments to secure the White House. These military regiments were met by Rutskoi and his allies


15 who had occupied the building and were also well-armed. A tense standoff ensued, and in desperation, Rutskoi ordered his supporters to attack the mayor's office and then the headquarters of Ostankino, the state-owned national television station. With this line crossed, Yeltsin gave the order for the military to seize and clear the White House. The next day, October 4 th the crisis was over and Yeltsin had won (McFaul 2001, 194-8). Executive-Legislative Balance in the 1993 Constitution In the aftermath of this chaos, Yeltsin and his advisers prepared to submit their draft of a new Russian constitution to the people for approval via referendum. Having been crafted with Yeltsin's wishes in mind, the constitution heavily favored the executive branch over the legislative and granted the executive unusually strong legislative powers. A reading done by the Supreme Soviet before the crisis had removed some of the more egregious inclusions, such as the President's near unlimited prerogative to dissolve parliament that was found in the first draft (Remington 2000, 510). The version of the constitution that was submitted to the Russian people in a referendum was passed and entered into law in December of 1993, and is referred to as the 1993 constitution. Although it had been softened somewhat, the 1993 constitution still created an institutional configuration in which the president enjoyed a significant power advantage over the new legislative branch, the Federal Assembly (Remington 2000, 500-504). The Federal Assembly, instituted by the 1993 constitution is a bicameral legislature. The upper house, the Federation Council, was allotted 178 seats, to be filled


16 by two representatives from each of Russia's federal units. Under Yeltsin, these representatives were popularly elected and were usually regional governors or mayors. The lower house, the State Duma, was given the bulk of the legislative responsibilities in the constitution. The Duma contained 450 seats, and after some wrangling, the Yeltsin administration finally decided on a mixed system for electing its deputies. Under the electoral law for the Duma, outlined in Presidential Decree 1557, half of the seats would be allocated on the basis of single-member district (SMD) mandates. The other half of the seats would be allocated by closed-list nationwide proportional representation (PR). Yeltsin allegedly decided on this system not for any real interest in the institutional design, but because he was told that it would benefit his allies in the elections (McFaul 2001, 211-9). The 1993 constitution delegated an unusual degree of legislative power to the president. One of the more uniquely expansive powers is the right to issue binding presidential decrees. The decree power is a vestige of the Gorbachev-era reforms that created the office of the president, and they were used extensively in 1991 and 1992 as Yeltsin passed the "shock therapy" package. These decrees take the force of law immediately upon their issuance and are impervious to any parliamentary check. The president does not require parliament's consent to issue a decree, and the parliament has no power to overturn decrees. This power gives the president a direct route of translating his or her policy preferences into law. Fortunately, this decree power is subject to certain constitutional constraints. Decrees do not require approval by the parliament, but they can be annulled by the Constitutional Court if it deems the acts to be unconstitutional. The


17 president can also rescind decrees as easily as he or she can issue them. There are certain policy domains under the 1993 constitution that can not be influenced by decree and require the passage of federal legislation. These include taxation, social benefits, pensions, land use, and rules concerning the election of the Duma, the composition of the Federation Council (the upper house of parliament), and the structures of state power in the territories. Decrees are also restricted from addressing points of law previously covered by previous federal legislation or from violating the constitution. When a federal law is passed, it supersedes any previously issued presidential decree, thus, as the parliament continues to pass laws, the universe of law subject to the president's decree power continually shrinks (Remington 2000, 505). The president's ability to rescind decrees led to their decreased effectiveness as a policy instrument under Yeltsin (Remington 2000, 505). This weakening of the decree power stems, in part, from Yeltsin's exploitation of decrees as a campaign strategy in the 1996 elections, during which he used some fifty decrees to promise myriad tax exemptions and state-sponsored benefits. However, Yeltsin's decrees could only be a promise and not enactment, as decree power did not, and still does not, extend to those policy domains. After his successful election, Yeltsin rescinded all of these decrees with a single decree, having exhausted their electoral utility and not wishing to bankrupt the government. Actions such as these have led to the general perception of decrees as being less credible than federal law and have led many bureaucrats and private agents to give them little credence compared to federal law (Remington 2000, 507-508). Thus, while decree power is an unusually strong power for an executive, it does not allow the


18 president to govern outside of certain institutional constraints and it does not eliminate the need for the president to work with the Duma on several critical policy areas. Another unusually strong presidential power is the executive's ability to appoint and dismiss the prime minister and his cabinet. This appointment power constitutes an explicit institutional advantage over the parliament not enjoyed by presidents in other hybrid systems. The president of the Russian Federation appoints the prime minister and the government directly; they are then subject to a vote of assent by the parliament. The president has no compulsion to consider the relative strength of the parties in parliament when making his selections, and ministers have often not been official members of a political party. The parliament does have the right to a vote of no confidence in the government with similar powers as those in a Westminster system, creating an unusual cross-pressure on the government. The government must simultaneously appease the president and parliament, both of whom retain the right to dismiss it at their leisure (Remington 2000, 512). This dynamic created considerable conflict during the Yeltsin era, particularly in 1998 and 1999, when Yeltsin fired and hired a long string of prime ministers, leading some in the Duma to call for constitutional amendments limiting these powers. The dual-executive dynamics from this arrangement tend to favor the president, as prime ministers appointed by presidents tend to be weaker than their counterparts who are elected by legislatures. This weakness can be attributed to the lack of a legislative mandate and the president's direct oversight of the prime minister's tenure. Hybrid systems that employ the presidential appointment of the government mitigate the risk of schisms emerging between the two heads of the executive because the prime minister


19 stands to gain nothing from opposing the president, whose agenda the prime minister has been appointed to implement. This institutional dominance of the president over the prime minister marginalizes the office's influence and curtails its autonomy (Linz and Stepan 1996, 278-280). Under the 1993 constitution the president retains full rights to initiate legislation in parliament, a power enjoyed by few presidents in hybrid systems. Due to the Duma's autonomy in controlling its own agenda, legislative proposals from the executive branch can be ignored if they do not receive sufficient support in the Duma (Remington 2000, 510). But in the presence of a pro-presidential majority, this rule allows for the executive branch to essentially dictate the letter of the law from its conception until its implementation. In the presence of fair democratic competition, this rule delegates to the executive branch a power enjoyed by every deputy in the Duma. But given a parliamentary majority, this power grants the executive branch the ability to translate policy preferences of the president into federal law almost on a word-for-word basis and to advance the president's agenda unfettered. The 1993 constitution also allows the president a veto power, that can be overridden with a two-thirds majority in each house, and it affords the president fairly wide discretion in dissolving the Duma, but not the upper house, the Federation Council. While the president is delegated unusually strong powers by the 1993 constitution, the parliament's powers vis-ˆ-vis the president are accordingly weak. The parliament approves legislation and can override presidential vetoes as mentioned before. The Duma can also override a veto by the Federation Council with a similar two-thirds


20 majority. The parliament also retains power of impeachment. Impeachment proceedings must be initiated in the Duma and must receive a two-thirds majority. The Duma's case must prove to the Supreme Court that the president is guilty of "grave crimes or treason". If the Supreme Court agrees to the charge levied against the president, the legality of the impeachment procedure must be reviewed by the Constitutional Court (a separate institution). If the Constitutional Court approves of the procedures, the motion goes to the Federation Council, where it must be approved by a two-thirds majority (Remington 2000, 514-15). The threat of impeachment is a concrete institutional incentive for the president to consider the wishes of the parliament; however, it is such a dramatic and involved process that it is only a useful oversight mechanism for the most egregious of transgressions. This difficulty has not prevented the Duma from mounting credible impeachment threats. In June of 1998, the Duma voted to open investigations of Boris Yeltsin on five counts of "grave crimes or treason" of which only one came close to obtaining the necessary 300 votes in parliament: the charge that he had instigated an illegal war in Chechnya in 1994, which failed by only sixteen votes. The Duma also has the right to summon officials for questioning and to hold hearings, but aside from voting no confidence in the government or impeaching the president, these questionings and hearings are the extent of the Duma's formal oversight capacity on the executive branch. Remington argues that despite the advantages afforded to the president in the 1993 constitution, these advantages are not sufficient enough to allow the president to rule without support from parliament (2000, 516-18). In order to pass federal law, for


21 which decrees are not an appropriate substitute, and maintain confidence in his appointed government, the president must be able to obtain a majority in parliament and ostensibly must be willing to compromise in order to secure these votes. These institutional dynamics are a recipe for deadlock between branches in the absence of a strong propresidential majority, and deadlock was frequent throughout the Yeltsin years, during which time no party ever enjoyed a majority in the Duma (Remington 2010, 45). Without widespread support in the Duma, and with a strong and well-organized communist opposition, Yeltsin was often forced to negotiate with faction leaders within the Duma in order to secure support for legislation and governmental appointments. A Regime-Type Classification of the Russian Constitution Regime-type analyses attempt to explain the character and dynamics of democratic regimes on the basis of the constitutional provisions that structure their institutions (Troxel 2003, 7-8). Institutional configurations, in these analyses, are thought to structure political behavior as profoundly as the economic or social contexts from which they emerge. In recent years the term "superpresidentialism" has been used to describe the regime-type set up under Russia's 1993 constitution (Fish 2005, 205). The superpresidentialist character of the 1993 constitution is often used as a primary explanation of Putin's dominance over the Duma from 2000 to 2008, and to account for everything from the weakness of the Russian party system (Likhtenchtein and Yargomskaya 2005, 1186) to the diminished capacity of political institutions outside of


22 the executive (Fish 2005, 237). Technically speaking, the regime created by the 1993 constitution is "semipresidential" according to the classical definition articulated by Duverger (Duverger 1980, 166). Duverger categorizes semipresidential regimes along three criteria. The first is the direct popular election of the president. The second is the possession of "quite considerable powers" (Duverger 1980, 166). The third and final criterion is the presence of a prime minister and cabinet that possess executive power and are subject to the approval of parliament. These three criteria are formally matched by the 1993 constitution, but Fish takes issue with the real substance of the third criterion in the Russian case. The prime minister is subject to approval by parliament, but the parliament must reject the nominee in three separate votes. If the nominee is rejected on the third vote, the legislature is automatically dissolved. The inability to categorically reject a nominee without being subject to dissolution is not a real approval power, and as such the Russian regime may be more appropriately called superpresidential given the president's greater authority over appointment and dismissal of the government (Fish 2005, 203-5). It stands to reason that if superpresidentialism can adequately explain the dominance of Putin over the Duma in recent years, then we should see similar trends in Yeltsin's relationship with the Duma as he operated with the same constitutional privileges. If the prescriptions of regime-type analyses hold, we should see little difference in the character of executive-legislative dynamics between the Yeltsin and Putin administrations. The following sections will clarify the nature of Yeltsin's relationship with the Duma and try to assess whether the regime-type account of present


23 day Russian politics holds. Privatization, the Oligarchs, and the Duma In July of 1994, Yeltsin used his decree power to start the second wave of privatization of state assets. This "loans for shares" privatization program allowed banks to secure control of the shares of large state-owned companies in exchange for cash loans to the Russian government. The arrangement was supposed to be temporary, allowing the state to buy back its controlling interests by repaying the loans. If the loans were not repaid by the state in a year, the lender was allowed to take full ownership. None of the loans were repaid. From 1994 to 1995 a small group of Russian banks essentially bought the state's most successful firms and natural resource rights for pennies on the dollar. The incredible value of the firms and natural resources that these banks and holding companies acquired for rock-bottom prices created a new class of billionaires practically overnight (Rutland 2010, 163). The concentration of enormous privatization wealth in the hands of a few elites would also prove to have an effect on Yeltsin's relationship with the Duma. The auctions for these shares were rigged to pick the winners (Rutland 2010, 164). The Yeltsin administration stripped the Russian state of its holdings in order to curry favor with powerful financial elites whom Yeltsin hoped would support him in the 1996 election. Among the benefactors of the privatization windfall was Menatep, a bank and holding company headed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Through the share auctions,


24 Menatep gained an 80% stake in Yukos oil company; though Yukos' projected earnings were estimated in billions of dollars, Khodorkovsky's company acquired the firm for only $700,000 (in 1997 dollars) (McFaul 2001, 252). The oligarchs paid Yeltsin back in kind. Media tycoons and privatization oligarchs Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky both committed the full editorial line of their nationally broadcast television networks to support Yeltsin in his 1996 presidential campaign, while other privatization benefactors made sure that Yeltsin's campaign coffers were lined with cash (Fish 2005, 133). Despite terrible polling numbers and dismal prospects heading into the election season, Yeltsin was reelected to a second term (McFaul 2001, 292-4). While these newly minted billionaires paid for Yeltsin's reelection, this was not the only electoral benefit they hoped to gain going into the 1995-1996 election cycle. With the wealth of Russia disproportionately concentrated in their hands, the oligarchs attempted to buy up as much of the Duma as possible. Party campaigns across the ideological board were funded by financial and industrial interests in the run-up to the December 1995 election for the Second Duma. Yeltsin's unsuccessful presidential party, Our Home is Russia, received substantial financial backing from the state-owned oil and gas firm, Gazprom, the Union of Oil and Gas Industrialists, and several large commercial banks. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) received funding from the agricultural conglomerate, Rosagrompromstroi (Chaisty 2006, 133-4). Despite the large contributions made to party campaigns, party-based influence was not the main strategy the oligarchs undertook to gain influence in the Duma. The concentration of financial power in several key industrial sectors and the will


25 to exploit that power for political advantage opened up new channels of access to policymakers for the oligarchs with time and money to spend on influencing individual deputies, legislative committees, and parliamentary officials. Encountering a weakly institutionalized Duma, external actors were able to build informal networks of influence based on material compensation (Rutland 2010, 162). The lack of executive control over individual deputies in the Second Duma and the relative weakness of party discipline allowed individual deputies to enter into clientelistic relationships with corporate and industrial interests, regardless of their stated ideology (see Table 1.1 for a list of the Dumas). The notion that the legislative services of individual deputies were up for sale in the Second Duma was so widespread that several Russian newspapers published alleged "price lists" enumerating the costs of legislative services for lobbyists (Chaisty 2006, 139). Table 1.1: Convocations of the State Duma Term: 1994-1997 1997-2000 2000-2003 2003-2007 2007-2011 2011-2014 Duma: First Duma Second Duma Third Duma Fourth Duma Fifth Duma Sixth Duma President: Yeltsin Yeltsin Putin Putin Medvedev Putin After the rise of the oligarchs, the Duma became a nexus of corporate and regional lobbying efforts. Large corporations like Yukos and Gazprom paid for the loyalty of deputies, or funded the campaigns that won them their seats (Rutland 2010, 174). Owing to the lack of centralized party discipline, agenda-setting, or oversight in the


26 Duma, it was not uncommon for business interests to have deputies introduce legislation that had virtually been drafted in a corporate boardroom. Many prominent businesspeople ran for the Duma themselves, and between the First and Second Dumas the number of former business managers serving as deputies rose from 70 to 104 out of the 450 deputies (Chaisty 2006, 135). In addition to large national corporations, regional economic elites also lobbied the Duma intensely during this time. The near collapse of central authority in Russia in the early 1990s led to far greater political influence for regional actors. Central authority was so weak during this time that the federal government entered into forty-six bilateral treaties with regional governments to appease their desire for greater autonomy. The "parade of sovereignties," as this trend came to be known, weakened the authority of the federal center vis-ˆ-vis the regions (Rutland 2010, 162). Regional political and economic elites sought to expand their influence past their own borders and into national legislative politics. The electoral mandate of the Duma, with half of its deputies being elected in single-member districts, allowed regional elites to sponsor SMD-deputy factions, such as Russia's Regions, that would exclusively represent regional interests. The relationship between SMD deputies and these regional actors was reinforced by the deputies' mandate within the regions. Given this context, it made sense for these deputies to build ties with power brokers from the districts they represented. Often, these relationships were in place before the deputies were even elected. Regional elites tried especially hard to seat loyal deputies on the Duma's Budget Committee to secure kickbacks from the federal budget (Chaisty 2006, 131-3).


27 Perhaps the most salient example of a contentious legislative battle fought between competing interest groups in the Duma was the long-running and highly fractionalized debate over production sharing agreements (PSA's). The proposed PSA's would grant private corporations exclusive rights to extracting state-owned natural resources, such as oil and gas, on the condition that the revenue would be split between the firm and the state. The protracted sparring over the specific provisions of these agreements spanned the duration of the Second Duma (Chaisty 2006, 177). The divisions in the Duma over this legislation, both between and inside parties, evinced a considerable degree of external influence over deputy behavior. In the Second Duma, the liberal party Yabloko became the most adamant supporter of PSA's. Unsurprisingly, Yabloko went on to receive a large amount of its campaign funding in the 1999 election from Yukos oil, a prominent proponent of the legislation (Chaisty 2006, 130). The divisions and dissent in leftist parties over the legislation highlight the way in which regional influences complicated policy formation in the Second Duma. In leftist parties such as Popular Power and the CPRF, party leaders from the resource-rich north were notably more proPSA than their fellow party members. Fully 53% of the pro-PSA dissenters within the CPRF and 50% of the pro-PSA dissenters in Popular Power were either from or affiliated with resource-rich regions (Chaisty 2006, 183-4). The drastic changes in Russia's distribution of wealth following privatization changed the character of legislative bargaining in the Duma. With greater economic power came greater levels of access to policy makers, introducing cross-pressures on individual deputies between party, regional, and clientelistic allegiances. The


28 multiplicitous, non-coordinated interests acting in the Duma necessitated compromise from the executive branch in order to obtain majorities in passing legislation. Although Yeltsin had almost every constitutional privilege an executive could ask for, they were not enough to coordinate elite interests around a common agenda consistently. Often, Yeltsin resorted to his decree power to skip legislative interaction entirely. In stark contrast to the behavior of the Third and Fourth Dumas under Putin, Yeltsin was often stymied and frustrated by his inability to manage the opposition and build coalitions in the Duma. Yeltsin's Bargaining Strategies in the Duma Starting an unfortunate trend of informal executive-legislative relations that would be continued under Putin, Yeltsin helped break some of these executive-legislative impasses through the establishment of informal consultative bodies to reach compromises that would ensure the passage of legislation or the appointment of an official. These consultative bodies either were comprised of the "big four" (the president, the prime minister, the chair of the Duma, and the chair of the Federation Council) or were "roundtable" meetings that included heads of individual Duma factions and representatives of key interest groups (e.g., energy companies, or regional governments) (Remington 2000, 516-20). These informal consultative groups were convened often between 1996 and 1998 to negotiate compromises between the president and corporate and regional interest groups within the Duma, and they provided a mechanism to avoid


29 deadlock on contentious issues. The informal nature of these channels left them subject to the willingness of both the president and these interest groups to compromise on policy. The executive's privileged access to state agencies and their resources gave Yeltsin the power to distribute financial and political incentives for cooperation. This ability gave Yeltsin what little leverage he had over the First and Second Duma. Indeed, there are several examples of the Duma flexing its muscle against Yeltsin during his second term. The year 1998 was especially bad for Yeltsin's power vis-ˆ-vis the Duma. Following the 1998 financial crisis, Russia tumbled into a deep recession and the value of the ruble collapsed. When Yeltsin went to renominate his prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, the Duma refused to confirm him and demanded a more acceptable nominee. Yeltsin conceded and instead nominated Yevgeny Primakov, who enjoyed strong support from the communist opposition, and would in fact go on to run against Yeltsin's chosen successor in the 2000 presidential elections (Remington 2010, 39). Soon after, in 1999, the Duma convened the aforementioned impeachment hearings against Yeltsin that were very nearly successful. Parliamentary opposition to Yeltsin was not always quite so dramatic, but the Duma was able to block or impede many elements of his agenda. On certain pieces of legislation, such as the reform of land rights and pension, banking, and tax reforms, the deadlock between Yeltsin and the Duma was never resolved (Remington 2008a, 970-1). Reeling from the impeachment threat, the unpopular war in Chechnya, and his own deteriorating health, Yeltsin became increasingly erratic over the course of 1999. After appointing and dismissing a string of prime ministers, Yeltsin promoted the director


30 of the Federal Security Bureau (FSB), the successor agency to the KGB, to the prime ministership. The FSB director, Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin, was relatively unknown to the Russian public. With his health and political career crumbling, Yeltsin resigned the presidency in 1999. Putin ascended, de facto, to the presidency only months before the next presidential election, that he would go on to win. Conclusion: Superpresidentialism without Presidential Superiority? The configuration of the relative institutional powers of the executive and legislative branches in the 1993 constitution and the executive advantage engendered therein were not sufficient to allow for dominance of the legislative policy process by the president. The corollary is that the legislative branch, despite its inferiority, had sufficient power to obstruct the president's agenda and to force executive bargaining on contentious policy issues. Incentives for cooperation with the executive were further diminished as powerful external actors offered rewards for desired deputy behavior. As more and more actors gained access to the channels of legislative power, Yeltsin's authority was diminished and his need to make concessions expanded. Even though Yeltsin himself helped draft a constitution that would create a weaker legislature, the Duma was a consistent source of opposition to his agenda and forced him to build tenuous coalitions through compromise on most pieces of important legislation. Although it was subject to the president's expansive power, the Duma played an integral role in the policy process and forced Yeltsin to temper more radical policy


31 proposals and occasionally back down in the face of parliamentary resistance. The Duma under Yeltsin, though heavily influenced by external elites, was an independent institution that was able to confront Yeltsin and put a necessary check on the president's power. Importantly, the surprisingly equitable executive-legislative dynamics observed in the Dumas under Yeltsin were aided by the presence of a sizable parliamentary opposition and the complicating influences of regional and corporate lobbies. In the absence of these types of countervailing and confounding influences, the power of the executive in the legislature faces few checks. Without a meaningful opposition presence or alternate bases of political power (e.g., regional governments), the incentives and even the prospects for opposing the presidential agenda may be greatly diminished. This absence of incentives for opposition leaves open the possibility that a president could dominate the policy process unimpeded if he or she were to obtain a large and consistently loyal majority. Despite the advantages afforded by a "superpresidential" constitution, Yeltsin was not able to assert executive supremacy over the Duma. His failure to do so can be seen as a result of his inability to structure legislative incentives firmly towards the center. With independently powerful regional governments and an oligarchic presence that was not beholden to the president's wishes, Yeltsin could only hope to negotiate on equal terms with these alternate bases of power with whom he had to compete for influence over deputies. While Yeltsin was a prolific distributor of patronage, he was also very inefficient, and his mechanisms for accommodating special interests in the Duma did little to foster loyalty to the executive. Although he made significant concessions and


32 attempted to appease the assertive legislative actors he faced, these efforts never translated into a consistent or coherent pro-presidential majority in the Duma. The evidence presented in this chapter suggests that the "superpresidential" explanation for the weakness of the Duma vis-ˆ-vis Vladimir Putin is not sufficient. The presidencies of Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin have been afforded the same "superpresidential" privileges in regard to president-Duma relations, but the contrast between their terms in office could not be starker. While Yeltsin presided over a contentious and sometimes aggressive legislature, Putin has passed his agendas easily since taking office with little opposition from the Duma. Under Yeltsin, the Duma could and did act as an intransigent impediment to the president's goals, but under Putin the Duma has taken on the role of a rubber-stamp legislature. If the constitution were truly the source of Putin's dominance, why would a similar executive-legislative relationship not have obtained under Yeltsin? The implication of this incongruence is that the prescriptions of regime-type analyses cannot fully capture the complexity of the legislative dynamics that were at work during Yeltsin's presidency and cannot account for the Duma's transformation under Putin. Some other factors must have effected the change in executive-legislative relations between the end of the Yeltsin era and the present. The following chapters will examine potential explanations, both institutional and noninstitutional, for the Duma's puzzling transformation.


33 Chapter II: Institutional Engineering and Party Dynamics in the Duma When Vladimir Putin inherited the presidency from Boris Yeltsin, the Duma was a fractionalized, contentious arena of substantive policy debate. No party had ever controlled an outright majority of the seats. Yeltsin's famously turbulent relationship with the Duma had brought him to the brink of impeachment and he had resigned the next year in disgrace. In 2008, Vladimir Putin's United Russia controlled 70% of the seats in the Duma and had guaranteed him the successful passage of his every legislative whim in recent memory. Yeltsin was a weak president who had written and passed himself a superpresidential constitution, but was still unable to control the unruly body. While Putin working within the confines of the same constitution mastered the Duma by the time he left the office of president to become its prime minister. The most salient institutional change to either the presidency or the Duma that took place over the course of Putin's two presidential administrations was the revision in the electoral mandate for the Duma, which Putin changed from 50% single-member district and 50% party-list to 100% party-list. While most theories of the impact of electoral reform on parliamentary dynamics would say that a shift to greater proportionality would increase the number of


34 parties in the Duma and create a more pluralistic body, the opposite has clearly happened under Putin. Why would Putin choose greater proportionality in his electoral reform if he were trying to engineer a compliant majority, and more importantly, why did it work? This chapter will analyze the dynamics engendered by the transition to a full party-list system and assess the extent to which Putin's use of institutional engineering has helped create his rubber-stamp Duma. Table 2.1 (reprinted from Remington 2008a, 969) Proportionalizing Electoral Reform and Legislative Behavior The literature on parliamentary theory has much to say concerning the intra-party and inter-party dynamics engendered by different forms of electoral mandate for legislative representatives. In analyzing Putin's engineering of a compliant United Russia


35 majority in the State Duma, it is of the utmost importance to consider the electoral arrangements that varied between the Yeltsin and Putin eras. These changes introduce a source of variation outside of the scope of the constitutional arrangements that could in part account for the transformation of the Duma into its current subservient role vis-ˆ-vis the president. Of particular importance is the elimination of single-member district mandates for deputies which, in 2005, Putin replaced with a fully proportional mandate for all deputies. The effects of such electoral mandate changes have been widely discussed in democratization literature over the past twenty-five years. While this literature has yielded significant insights into the party-system dynamics and political incentive structures fostered by such electoral reforms, the overarching conclusions reached by the early literature encounter considerable challenges when applied to illiberal political systems such as that constructed, and perhaps consolidated, under the first two presidential administrations of Vladimir Putin. The consequences of changes in electoral mandate on parliamentary behavior became an important topic in mainstream political science in the late 1980s as many young democracies brought forth in the "third wave of democratization" undertook the processes of writing constitutions and crafting institutions (Norris 1997, 298). Before these developments, electoral systems were widely considered one of the more stable institutions of established liberal democracies. While the legislative dynamics fostered by these different mandate types had attracted scholarly attention, most of such literature focused on relatively stable Western European democracies (Norris 1997, 298). One of the major hypotheses tested by political scientists studying the impacts of electoral


36 reform on parliamentary behavior over the past few decades is that changes engendering greater proportionality in the electoral mandate for legislatures are typically accompanied by an increase in the number of effective parties in that legislative body (Lijphart 1994, 81). Maurice Duverger first articulated the basic idea, and its inverse, that has been the starting point of much of the subsequent academic discourse on the topic. "Duverger's rule" is taken as a pair of propositions. The first, often called "Duverger's law," states that, "One-seat districts with plurality rule tend to reduce the number of parties to two." This is followed by "Duverger's hypothesis" which says that, "Multi-Seat districts with proportional representation tend to be associated with more than two parties." (Duverger 1954, 18-19) The logic of Duverger's hypothesis, as applied to a federal-level electoral reform, is typically explained as such: smaller parties are able to compete more effectively at a national level where they do not face the pressure of matching the resources of larger parties in single-district majoritarian or pluralitarian contests. Freed from the constraint of having to win a plurality in any single area, smaller parties can gain relatively more seats under a more proportional system as they can appeal to a broader audience of eligible voters in a district of far greater magnitude. If, as expected, more small parties are able to achieve the threshold percentage of the vote for being seated in the legislature, the composition of that legislature will naturally change to include a greater number of parties capable of wielding some degree of legislative influence. The number of effective parties within a legislature or viably competing in a


37 party system can be taken as the decisive indicator of party fractionalization within that system (Bielasiak 2002, 189). In this way, greater pluralism within a party system can be seen as a likely and expected result of electoral reforms that favor greater proportionality. While it is an imperfect proxy, the degree of party fractionalization within a legislative body is a fairly reliable indicator of the degree of ideological diversity within that party system, assuming that the parties in power were fairly elected on the basis of clearly differentiated platforms. Following Duverger's logic, reforms that favor greater proportionality in the electoral mandate for the legislature are thought to increase fractionalization by having a "multiplying effect" on the number of effective parties (Mainwaring and Shugart 1992, 207), and by proxy, can expand the width of the ideological spectrum in that legislature. These conclusions make intuitive sense; with supposedly greater opportunities for smaller parties to gain office, the legislature should seat a more diverse group of legislators representing a more diverse constellation of political interests. However, Putin's reforms obtained almost the exact opposite result in the Russian party system. An ascendant United Russia went on to dominate the Duma until the present. This result presents several key questions for scholars of electoral reform. How was Putin able to orchestrate this outcome that so strongly contradicts Duverger's hypothesis? Why would a revision of mandate type seem an attractive option to Putin given these implications? What changes in the dynamics of parliamentary behavior are fostered by such reforms and can these dynamics be exploited for executive cooptation of a legislature?


38 Mandate Type, Deputy Behavior, and Legislative Incentives An analysis of the influence of mandate type on intra-party incentive structures exposes the conflicting dynamics at play and illuminates how this institutional modification did what the Yeltsin constitution with all of its codified presidential advantage could not do: create tangible incentives for unwavering support for the president's agenda. The following section will compare the behaviour of Duma deputies elected by both mandate types during the Second Duma to help clarify the influence that electoral changes and institutional engineering have had on party cohesion and strength in the Third and Fourth Dumas over which Putin presided as president and during which the Duma's transformation was effected. A brief note on the differences between parties and factions in the Duma is necessary before examining the impact of mandate type on deputy behavior in the State Duma. At a basic level, parties are the ultimate units of political organization in legislative elections, whereas factions are the ultimate organizations for crafting legislation in the elected body. In the Duma, deputies may freely form "factions" across party lines or with no party affiliations. These factions have few formal requirements for organization and none for ideological coherence, they simply must meet a minimum percentage of seats (the present threshold is 8%) in the Duma in order to be registered (Haspel et al. 1998, 420). These Duma factions help foster cooperation among deputies in advancing their policy prerogatives, but do not provide the incentives for loyalty that a party would provide. "Parties" refer to traditional political parties as are typically found


39 in democratic regimes. Throughout the Yeltsin era and the first convocation of the Duma under Putin, membership in a party was not necessary in order to gain sufficient electoral support to win an SMD mandate or to be seated in the Duma as a deputy. The way in which factions are used to build legislative coalitions in the Duma is also unlike other systems in which parties or coalitions between separate parties are the apex of political organization. Factional majorities in the Duma fulfill a similar function to party coalitions in Western European legislatures, but the organizational and ideological influence of the central organization of individual political parties is relatively diminished owing to the formal control over the legislative agenda given to a faction that obtains the majority of seats within the Duma (Remington 2000, 511). Factions have no need for organizational or ideological consistency, and individual deputies can freely join them without approval from their party's central organization. This organizational feature of the Duma makes it possible for a powerful single party or faction to obtain a functional majority even when no majority coalition could be formed from an alliance between said party and another distinct party. This system of faction-based organization contributes, in part, to the elucidating the effect that electoral reform has had on United Russia's ability to build a reliable majority. An illuminating empirical study completed in the late 1990s sheds some light on the significant variation among Duma deputies along mandate type and ideological consistency in voting records during the first and second convocations of the State Duma (Haspel et al. 1998). In its first, second, and third convocations, the Duma was composed of 50% single-member district mandate deputies (SMD), and 50% party-list mandate


40 (PR) deputies. Haspel's study covers the period of the First Duma and the Second Duma over which Yeltsin presided and which were elected under this arrangement. This period was characterized by a highly fractionalized system under which no clear majority emerged (though the Communist Party [CPRF] did gain ground in the Second Duma) and deputies routinely and opportunistically switched their party affiliations in order to maintain influence and obtain benefits from aligning with more dominant parties (Haspel et al. 1998, 420). Empirical tests on mandate type, voting records, and party and faction affiliations within the Duma, indicated that electoral mandate and party loyalty (measured as the percentage of the time that an individual voted with the majority of his or her declared faction) were correlated, with single-member district mandate deputies voting with less loyalty and consistency than party-list mandate deputies (Haspel et al. 1998, 428). Further statistical tests found that when factional affiliations were controlled for single-member district mandate deputies were not less loyal within their individual factions. This finding suggests that within individual factions, differences in loyalty between SMD and PR deputies were not statistically significant. Haspel and colleagues (1998, 431) understood this puzzling result as indicating that the Duma-wide difference in loyalty was attributable to the presence of single-member district "deputy groups" that were comprised of regionally elected SMD deputies exclusively. These factions displayed extremely low rates of loyalty and were often loosely organized along scant or nonexistent ideological platforms. During the First and Second Dumas, the several factions comprised solely of SMD deputies (the aforementioned "deputy groups"), represented the least ideologically coherent and consistent factions in the Duma (Haspel


41 et al. 1998, 438-21). Haspel et al. (1998, 421-23) outline the logic behind this lack of adherence to party lines that was displayed by the SMD mandate deputies within the context of the Russian constitution. One important consideration is the legislative majority's inability to appoint the government, which provides a weaker incentive for party loyalty than can be offered by parties in pure parliamentary regimes or parliamentary-presidential hybrid systems. The crux of the argument, though, is that an SMD mandate does not provide the same incentives for factional cohesion that a party-list mandate does. Party-list mandate deputies depend on their party leadership for their placement on the party's list in the election. Therefore, party-list deputies have concrete incentives to appease their party's leadership; their electoral success is tied directly to their utility for the party as perceived by the party leadership. Party-list deputies are also dependent upon their party's electoral success in order to retain their seat in the Duma. They thus have a tangible interest in the legislative success of their party's agenda. This incentive structure lends itself to stronger party cohesion, ideological consistency, and organization to ensure continued legislative influence and electoral viability. By contrast, SMD mandate deputies have a distinctly different incentive structure. The electoral success of SMD mandate deputies is directly tied to the appeasement of their constituents within their geographical districts. Specifically, these deputies were accountable to regional political and economic elites who supported their campaigns and afforded them with patronage benefits for continued performance and representation of their interests. The success of a national party, or a deputy's affiliation with one, had a bearing on the voting calculus of SMD deputies only


42 insofar as they influenced their particular regional interests. In this way, SMD mandate deputies were unpredictable in their ideological affiliations and were insulated from the pressures of national-level politics (Haspel et al. 1998, 424). The Duma was therefore demarcated into two types of deputies, those who were susceptible to pressure from the central government and were concerned with federal-level outcomes, and those who received pressure from regional governments and were relatively more attached to the procurement of resources and benefits from and for the elite patrons back home. Given the massive decentralization of state power that took place under the Yeltsin regime, these regional elites held considerable sway over their representatives in the Duma and had decisive influence over an SMD mandate deputy's continued tenure in the Duma. Putin and the Third Duma: SMD-Deputy Deviance This pervasive regional influence is part of the legislative context Vladimir Putin encountered when he first assumed the presidency (de facto) in 1999, shortly before the election of the Third Duma. Boris Yeltsin offered his surprising (but welcome) resignation just months before the elections to select his successor. He installed his prime minister and chosen replacement, Putin, in the presidency for the remainder of his term. As Putin was running in the presidential election, incumbency offered him one of the greatest imaginable electoral advantages (although Putin later was able to imagine even more electoral advantages that he might like to have). His pre-election appointment to office allowed Putin to prepare for the outcome of the election to the Third Duma, which


43 would take place under the same electoral laws as the two Dumas elected under Yeltsin. Over the course of his presidency, Yeltsin tried more than once to manufacture a pro-presidential party in the Duma. The advantages that would be created by successfully forming such a party were clear. A pro-presidential bloc could create a single organizational vehicle to represent elite interests, gain their loyalty, and buttress administrative influence over them (Gel'man 2008, 917). After the embarrassing failure of his first party, Our Home is Russia, in the 1995 Duma elections, Yeltsin tried again to create a presidential bloc by forming Unity in 1999. Unity was intended to prevent the regionally oriented party Fatherland All-Russia (OVR), headed by long-time Moscow mayor and kingmaker Yuri Luzhkov, from gaining influence in the Duma. With Yeltsin's resignation, Unity became by default a pro-Putin party and gave Putin the foothold from which he could begin to shape the Duma to his liking. As had happened in the elections to the First and Second Duma, no majority party emerged in the Third Duma, though Unity and Fatherland All-Russia both made respectable showings. The lack of a clear majority allowed Putin and his long-time aide Vladislav Surkov to devise a bargain that would bring Unity into power and undercut the potential power of Fatherland All-Russia (Remington 2008a, 971). Putin arranged a compromise between Unity and the largest opposition party, the communists, to allocate leadership positions within the Duma. Together, Unity, the communists, and an allied SMD deputy group, People's Deputy, formed a bare factional majority in the Duma. Upon entering the Duma, Unity, People's Deputy and the communists divided all of the committee leadership positions among themselves. The communists received the


44 speakership of the Duma, which Unity supported, and in return the communists helped secure every other committee leadership position for Unity or People's Deputy (Remington 2006, 13). The seizure of the leadership of the Duma exhausted the capabilities of this alliance, and the communists broke off immediately afterwards, the speakership attained. However, Putin was far from done reaping the benefits of his new influence in the Duma. As the legislative session began, Putin took an old trick from Yeltsin's book to unprecedented heights. While Yeltsin was known to sporadically convene consultative panels in order to obtain majority support for contentious legislation, Putin formed these informal panels for almost every piece of legislation. He convened "coalition councils" to meet before legislation reached the Duma floor in order to harmonize voting positions within the pro-presidential bloc and ensure passage. These coalition councils were not meant to reach a broad policy consensus, but more to offer sufficient incentives to convince deputies not to obstruct the presidential agenda. The coalition councils did not take the "big four" configurations of the Yeltsin era consultative panels. Instead, by 2001 Putin had arranged a parliamentary bloc that formed a factional majority just large enough to secure passage of his legislative agenda. The bloc consisted of two parties and two SMD deputy groups: Unity, Fatherland All-Russia, People's Deputy, and Russia's Regions (Remington 2006, 14). The curious inclusion of former Unity rivals Fatherland All-Russia in this group made sense from a strategic standpoint. After Unity had secured control of most leadership positions in the Duma, it stood to gain more from working with another party of nebulous ideology than with the communists, who were unlikely to


45 support any of Putin's agenda. While the faction started as an alliance, it did not remain so for long. Unity's dominance in the coalition, leadership positions in the Duma, and access to the executive overwhelmed the voices that made Fatherland All-Russia a distinct party. With the absorption or "hostile takeover" of Fatherland All-Russia complete, Putin's four-party bloc, called United Russia, was registered as a faction in 2001 (Gel'man 2008, 919). Putin coordinated the voting of this pro-presidential bloc through the institution of "zero-readings" of important pieces of legislation. Before the Duma was set to vote on a specific measure, the faction leaders would meet at the Kremlin and hammer out the concessions and compromises needed to make the measure palatable for all parties. As this bargaining process took place before formal debate on the legislation ever started, it allowed for Putin to completely marginalize the input of the parliamentary opposition. In exchange for prebendal benefits at the disposal of the executive, the members of the bloc assured support, and this support allowed Putin to minimize the concessions that needed to be made to ensure passage by narrowing the range of actors who would be able to obstruct passage (Remington 2006, 14-15). Putin was generally successful with these methods throughout 2001 and 2002 and passed many of the items on his agenda quite quickly, including comprehensive tax reform, pension reform, decreased regulations on businesses, several laws on banking reform, judicial reform, and his 2001 law on political parties (Remington 2008a, 979). Such rapid and frequent successes would have been unthinkable during the Yeltsin era, but Putin's system of parliamentary control was not perfect in that it still required executive bargaining and concessions in order to maintain


46 consistent support and was contingent upon the president's continued ability to provide sufficient benefits to all four factions in the pro-presidential bloc. Unsurprisingly, the two SMD mandate deputy groups in the United Russia faction, People's Deputy and Russia's regions required the most concessions. Crosspressured by the influence of Putin and their regional patrons, SMD deputies were less dependable for Putin than their party-list counterparts. This was especially evident on controversial pieces of legislation such as Putin's proposal to monetize social benefits in 2004. After facing considerable backlash, Putin rescinded some of the more contentious elements of the reform and allowed United Russia to take credit for softening the legislation, but 12.3% of the SMD deputies in the United Russia faction still either voted against the proposal or abstained (Remington 2008a, 967). Statistical studies on voting records in the Third Duma found that the two SMD mandate deputy groups in the bloc were the least consistent supporters of the presidential agenda and showed the smallest degree of cohesion in their voting records (Remington 2006, 24). These findings are consistent with the interpretation of Haspel and colleagues that regionally tied deputies were less susceptible to pressure from the center (1998, 424-31). Putin's Centralization Agenda: The Fourth Duma Putin's experience managing the United Russia faction in the Third Duma illuminated several key dynamics that made the further centralization of legislative incentives attractive. Despite the strong powers, both executive and legislative, of the


47 president in the Russian constitution, the ability for the president to control a loyal majority was contingent upon several factors: the distribution of seats among parties (even with faction rules), the voting discipline of those parties, and the balance between central and regional influence over individual deputies (Remington 2006, 6-10). Although Putin was successful in pushing his agenda throughout his first term as president, the relative independence of SMD deputies from the federal center forced him to incur greater transaction costs in solidifying support for his agenda than would otherwise be the case. Looking forward to his second term as president, Putin was faced with the choice to either continue bargaining with regionally influenced SMD deputies or to restructure the Duma to calibrate legislative incentives towards the federal level, and thus himself. Late in his first-term and early into his second term, over the course of the Third and Fourth Convocations of the Duma, Putin pursued strongly centralizing institutional reforms that fundamentally changed the character of federal-regional relations in the Russian Federation and created favorable conditions for expanding his already impressive influence over the Duma. If one were to ask for a political climate amenable to greater centralization and consolidation of federal power, one would be hard pressed to find a better example than that of the Russia in the early 2000s. The near disintegration of the Russian state under Yeltsin and the "parade of sovereignties" that accompanied it exposed a weak and questionably competent federal government. The privatization Yeltsin implemented and the overnight billionaires that it created were hugely unpopular with average Russians, who bore the brunt of a severe recession, the contraction of social benefits, and a marked


48 decrease in standards of living. The war in Chechnya, which provided then Prime Minister Putin with his first taste of the spotlight, highlighted the limited capacity of the federal government to effectively control its territory. Putin understood the insecurity Russians felt about a weak federal state and made the consolidation of federal power a central tenet of the agenda he communicated to the public. He deftly made his case for greater centralization in this context and infused it with a sober populist rhetoric that proved genuinely popular. In keeping with this rhetoric, his well-publicized persecutions of media and oil oligarchs allowed for him to demonstrate to the people his ability to reassert the federal government's power over the billionaires while eliminating influential political opposition along the way. The complexities of the Putin regime's relationship with Russia's "oligarchy", including the media, will be discussed in detail in the next chapter, but for now it is sufficient to say that results of his campaigns of harassment and intimidation against media magnates Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky granted Putin a media environment in which all nationally broadcasted television and radio stations were state-owned and many major newspapers were owned by state-run corporations (Lipman and McFaul 2010, 114-9). With all national broadcast media at his disposal, Putin was already in a perfect position to promote his centralization agenda as he wished in the Fourth Duma. With a legacy of federal collapse to rectify and a controlled media, Putin could hardly ask for anything more to help make his case. Then the terrorist attacks happened. Russia was rocked by two deadly terrorist attacks in 2004, as Putin's first term was nearing its end. The first came on February 6 th with the bombing of the Moscow


49 metro by Chechen separatists. On September 1st, Chechen separatists struck again, taking over a thousand hostages at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia. The hostage crisis lasted three days until Russian security forces entered the building using tanks and rockets. Almost four hundred hostages died in the battle between the security forces and the separatists, close to half of them children. On that very day, Putin proposed sweeping centralizing reforms to state structures of power in the name of national security, blaming the attacks on the negligence of regional officials (Lipman and McFaul 2010, 118). In a speech to the Russian people, Putin called for the Duma to eliminate the election of any of its deputies by a single-member district mandate and to replace the election of regional governors with a "consultation" process between the president and the regional legislatures that amounted to the power to appoint regional governors. Less than three weeks later the first draft of the legislation was taken up by the Duma and it was passed in May 2005. The speed with which this legislation was written and implemented led some to believe that it had been written before and that Putin had simply been waiting for an opportune moment to propose the reforms (Remington 2008a, 978). With the elimination of these final alternative bases of political influence, Putin was able to weaken the last incentives to opposing the presidential agenda in the Duma. Putin, speaking at a press conference at the Kremlin in December of 2004 made his rationale starkly obvious, saying that: ...changed procedures for electing the State Duma by party lists have the aim of balancing the political is no secret that in Russia today people standing for election in single seat districts generally have no hope of getting into parliament without the help of either some economic clan


50 or other or the regional governor, and everyone knows this to be a fact. (Quoted in Wilson 2006, 338). By simultaneously removing elected regional governors from the political process and eliminating the election of deputies who might be more loyal to regional than national leaders, Putin consolidated the hegemony over the Duma that had eluded Yeltsin over the course of his whole presidency and himself in the Third Duma. The regional SMD mandate groups had been the least reliable members of his pro-presidential bloc in the Third Duma and now the impetus for this inconsistency was removed. In this way, the need for considerable executive bargaining to ensure reliable support for the presidential agenda was reduced and the path was cleared for United Russia to further extend its control over the Duma. Somehow predicting the effect of this electoral reform, Putin said that the new electoral scheme would, "...strengthen the significance of large and influential political parties that represent the interests of citizens and unite them in a bid to reach common national goals" (Quoted in Wilson 2006, 338). The electoral reforms were paired with several other modifications to the regulation of political parties and changes to internal Duma procedures intended to strengthen established parties, these modfications were appended as amendments to the "On Duma elections" law throughout 2005. The minimum threshold for forming a Duma faction moved from 5% of the seats to 7% of the seats. Separate parties were banned from joining together into electoral blocs. The registration hurdles for new parties wishing to compete in elections were made more demanding. The minimum required membership for a party to participate in the Duma election was moved from 10,000 to


51 50,000. Of these 50,000 members, there had to be at least 500 each in 45 separate federal units and a minimum of 250 in all others. This requirement effectively banned regional parties. New parties were also made to pay a higher registration deposit to the Ministry of Justice, up to 60 million rubles from the previous 37.5 million (from $1.27 to $2.04 million at current exchange rates). Notably, parties with established factions in the Duma were exempt from paying this deposit or from having to collect the 200,000 signatures that were asked of parties without a Duma faction (Wilson 2006, 339-41). The implementation of these rules alongside the switch to a fully proportional system was intended to accelerate the growth of large parties and centralization of legislative politics that Putin assumed would happen with regional influences out of the way. Interestingly, the Kremlin seemed to assume that the implementation of higher barriers to entry in electoral registration and faction-forming in the Duma and the transition to full proportional representation would have similar effects on the party system. In fact, ceteris paribus, increases in minimum effective thresholds for parliamentary participation have been shown to have the exact opposite effect of a transition to proportional representation on the number of effective parties in the legislature in typical democratic systems (Lijphart 1994, 79-88). This incongruity has a potent implication: Putin did not consider a Duvergerian multiplying effect on the number of effective parties to be a possible outcome of his transition to full proportional representation and actually believed that the logical converse of the Duverger hypothesis would obtain in Russian case. He was right.


52 Impacts of Institutional Engineering on the Fifth Duma The election results for the Fifth Duma, the first convocation after the electoral reforms, show the massive extent to which the transition to a full party-list system boosted United Russia's success in courting the popular vote. Where United Russia earned 37.4% of the party-list vote in the 2003 elections for the Fourth Duma, that figure exploded to 64.3% of the party-list vote in the 2007 elections. Following the electoral reforms the Duma also shed one effective party, where there had been four parties large enough to surpass the 5%-of-seats threshold to form factions in the Fourth Duma, there were only three parties strong enough to surpass the 7% threshold in the Fifth Duma (Remington 2008a, 969). This evidence would seem to suggest that the switch to a full party-list system was a rousing success and a major contributor to United Russia's unquestioned supremacy in the Fifth Duma, but a comparison of the election results between the 1999 election for the Third Duma and the 2003 election for the Fourth Duma, both occurring under the mixed electoral system, challenge the idea that the electoral reform was responsible for the ascent of United Russia. In the 1999 election United Russia did not yet exist, but its predecessor Unity did. Unity received 23.3% of the party-list vote, which resulted in the Unity faction holding 18.4% of the seats in the Third Duma. After Unity's merger with Fatherland All-Russia, United Russia received, as mentioned before, 34.7% of the party-list vote but the United Russia faction was able to claim 68% of the seats in the Fourth Duma. Like the Fifth Duma, the Fourth Duma saw United Russia significantly increase its percentage of the


53 party-list vote from one election to the next (from 34.7% to 64.3% and from 18.4% to 34.7% respectively). But the changes in the factional composition of the Duma were even more striking: between the Third and Fourth Dumas, United Russia nearly quadrupled the percentage of seats its faction controlled from 18.4% to 68%. This expansion of control of seats in the Duma was far more dramatic than United Russia's already considerable increase in percentage of party-list votes received between those two elections. But when the factional composition of the Fourth and Fifth Dumas are compared, the trends become less clear. While United Russia's increase in the percentage of party-list votes received (from 34.7% to 64.3%) is quite impressive, the change in the factional composition of the Duma is less so. United Russia garnered almost 42% more of the party-list vote, its factional control of seats in the Duma increased only 2%, from 68% to 70% (Remington 2008a, 969). The Limits of the Electoral-Reform Explanation Several interesting conclusions regarding the impact of the electoral reform could be suggested by the above data. The first is that, in terms of functional control of the Duma, the real transformation takes place between the Third and Fourth Duma, before Putin's electoral reforms. This suggests that the creation of United Russia itself was of more import to the Duma's transformation than Putin's institutional engineering. United Russia was formed by the merger of four smaller parties, and party mergers have hardly been a rare occurrence in the post-Soviet era; indeed the profligate splintering and


54 absorption of parties can be difficult to follow. So it stands to reason that there must be something unique about this particular configuration and its place within the Russian system. The second inference that could be made from these results is that the electoral reform did not change the degree to which Putin controlled the Duma, but rather it changed the quality or the character of that control. While the difference between the factional dominance of United Russia is negligible between the Fourth and Fifth Dumas, the increase in the percentage of the party-list vote received between those elections is large. By mathematical necessity this means that a larger percentage of deputies in the United Russia faction were actually members of the party placed on the party list in the election in the Fifth Duma than in the Fourth Duma. This might suggest that the central organization of United Russia through some combination of electoral success and other benefits offered greater incentives for membership and association with the party than it had in the past. In sum, it appears that the engineering of electoral institutions, while a powerful and cherished tool of Vladimir Putin's, is not fully responsible for the hegemony of United Russia in the Fifth Duma. The results of Putin's electoral reforms do not conform to the predictions of Duverger's hypothesis, and indeed he undertook simultaneous reforms that would be assumed to have opposite effects on the party system in most literature on parliamentary dynamics. Additionally, the changes in the factional composition of the Duma suggest that the real transformation of the Duma into a lockstep rubber-stamp body took place before the major centralizing reforms were initiated. Taken


55 together, the impact of Putin's electoral reforms on his control of the Duma are somewhat unclear and cannot be the root cause of United Russia's dominance in the Fifth Duma. What is clear from the comparisons of factional composition between the Fourth and Fifth Duma is that far more deputies were members of United Russia after the electoral reforms took place. While Putin did not expand his control of the Duma with those reforms, it appears that the reforms strengthened United Russia as an organized party considerably. The electoral reforms can then be understood as actions that, rather than expanding United Russia's control over the Duma, expanded Putin's control over the deputies in his parliamentary faction. United Russia did not necessarily become a more powerful party in the Fifth Duma, but a more tightly centralized party where legislative incentives were channeled explicitly towards the tightly knit patronage network that has Putin as its nexus. Thus the electoral reforms must be taken in this context, as reflecting a consolidation of executive control over a party, and the use of that party as a patronage network to create a hegemonic dominant party regime. This monopolization of prebendal benefits and political incentives by the executive, more so than institutional engineering, accounts for United Russia's rise to power. It is the history and the mechanics of this control over patronage that must be understood in order to understand Putin's and United Russia's absolute power.


56 Chapter III The Creation of Russia's Dominant-Party Regime The evidence provided in the previous chapters establishes that the institutional engineering of the Duma, both by the Yeltsin constitution and Putin's mid-2000s electoral reforms, does not fully account for the utter subservience displayed by the Fourth and Fifth convocations of the Duma. In the case of Yeltsin, the strongly presidential constitution effectively written and implemented by the executive branch did not create centralizing incentives strong enough to marginalize political opponents at the regional or national level. Yeltsin struggled against the Duma for the duration of his two terms, despite the explicitly codified advantages of the executive over the legislative branch. The insufficiency of Putin's electoral reforms as an explanation of the weakness of the Duma is of a wholly different character. Putin did dominate the Duma, but the functional capture of the institution by United Russia took place before these reforms were implemented. The results of the elections to the Fourth and Fifth Dumas and the ensuing factional compositions of these Dumas suggest that while the reforms to electoral mandates did not create one pro-Putin super majority, they did restructure political incentives in the Duma more emphatically around the central organization of United


57 Russia. The far greater proportion of the party-list vote won by United Russia in the fifth convocation of the Duma suggests that the electoral reforms, rather than creating a lockstep Duma, reinforced and strengthened the dynamics that allowed Putin to effectively control the Third and Fourth Dumas. The overwhelming power of United Russia in the Fifth Duma and the far greater homogeneity of its faction relative to previous Dumas suggest that by this time incentives for political opposition, or even differentiation from the ruling party, had been greatly reduced or eliminated and the benefits of loyalty to United Russia as a party member, rather than just a faction member, had become clearer and more enticing to individual deputies. This ability to reward the allegiance of individual deputies allowed United Russia, already totally dominant in its control of the legislative agenda, to further insulate itself from the need to engage with dissenting voices and to internalize all substantive debate over policy within its upper echelons. Seen in this light, Putin's electoral reforms can be taken as part and parcel of a broader centralization strategy designed to channel all political incentives around the federal center and the office of the presidency. Accepting this view, it is necessary to examine Putin's other efforts to marginalize alternative bases of political influence and the mechanisms by which United Russia ensures policy passage in order to understand the transformation of the Duma from a fractionalized and sometimes chaotic legislature with real influence over national politics into a rubber-stamp body acting only in support of the executive agenda. This chapter will address two hallmarks of Putinism that figure prominently into United Russia's hegemony: the broad efforts to effect the destruction of


58 all alternate bases of political power outside the executive branch and the use of United Russia as a vehicle for the dispersion of prebendal benefits and the internalization and monopolization of elite bargaining. Engineering Regional Deinstitutionalization Compared to Putin's wide-ranging campaigns against regional elites and political institutions, his institutional engineering of the Duma could be seen as mild. One of the first salvos fired in Putin's war against regional politics happened early in his presidency. The Russian Federal Assembly is technically a bicameral legislature, with the Duma as its lower and more populous house. Prior to Putin's reforms in 2000, the upper house of the Federal Assembly, the Federation Council was comprised of regional political elites, typically regional executives and the heads of regional legislatures. At that time regional executives were popularly elected, allowing regional concerns to be clearly articulated and defended at the national level through the power of the Federation Council. While the Federation Council of the Yeltsin era had been markedly more compliant and cooperative than the Duma, Putin was still leery of letting these powerful regional actors influence the legislative process at the national level (Hyde 2001, 728). To counteract the power of regional executives and legislatures, Putin reformed the process by which members of the Federation Council were chosen. Instead of letting regional political actors themselves serve in the Federation Council, Putin submitted legislation to change the law so that these elites would appoint full-time representatives to send to Moscow. Unlike the former


59 members of the Federation Council, these new representatives would live and work fulltime in Moscow and hold no other official positions. Although the Federation Council resisted passing the legislation at first, vetoing it and refusing to form a conciliation commission, the body finally acceded to pressure from the executive and passed the legislation after some very mild concessions by Putin. One paltry concession was simply allowing current Federation Council members to serve the remainder of their terms, rather than all be replaced simultaneously. By eliminating the direct participation of regional elites in the federal legislative process, Putin severely reduced the ability for regional powers to organize and take collective action within the upper house of the legislature to defend regional interests at the national level. After this reform to the composition of the Federation Council, the only possible threat to Putin's agenda within the body would be an incredibly well-organized faction of regional governors exerting total control over their representatives in Moscow from their respective regions (Hyde 2001, 729). While one might think that this change would be enough for Putin to sufficiently marginalize regional influence in national politics, this was not the extent of his goals. Putin's other reforms over his first two terms as president also sought to curb regional influence on regional politics. The year 2000 saw another initiative by Putin to check the power of regional elites. The Presidential Federal Districts were established to provide executive oversight by way of a Presidential Representative given purview to report on the conduct of regional political elites to the president. While these offices were ostensibly designed to improve federal administration across the country, in recent years they have become a


60 mechanism by which the center can dictate the presidential agenda to regional political elites. These Presidential Federal Districts were soon supplemented with Presidential Representatives' Councils, small consultative panels that oversee the policy process in regional legislatures. These bodies have come to be used as a further mechanism by which United Russia dictates policy in regional legislatures (Mart'ianov 2007, 68-70). Along with controlling the national legislature, Putin also introduced numerous reforms over his first two terms to help control regional legislatures and party systems. The changes to rules governing the registration of political parties described in the last chapter apply to regional as well as national legislative elections. These reforms, which require establishing the presence of a bare minimum of party membership (at present 500 members) in at least half of Russia's federal units in order to run for PR-allocated seats, effectively ban regional parties from regional legislatures (Martianov 2007, 69). These requirements forced regional elites to join national parties simply to retain their offices and these regional elites have unsurprisingly latched on to United Russia in droves. Further consolidating United Russia's dominance of regional legislatures, Putin implemented mixed proportional/majoritarian electoral mandates for deputies in regional legislatures in 2002 (Wilson 2006, 318). Reducing the number of regional SMD deputies gives United Russia a significant advantage when considered alongside the party registration reforms. Because only national parties are allowed to contest PR-allocated seats, all party lists for regional legislatures are drawn up in Moscow, removing SMD mandates in regional legislatures ensures that more deputies in these legislatures will be in some way beholden to the federal center for placement on their party list. While these


61 changes buttressed United Russia's presence in regional legislatures over 2003 and 2004, they did not assure it total control, and often local United Russia branches fared well only in cooperation with the political machines of popularly-elected regional governors. This power of regional governors was another point that Putin was quick to address (Gel'man 2008, 919). Any concerns Putin may have harbored over a well-organized group of regional executives controlling the Federation Council from afar or maintaining influence over the legislatures in their own regions were alleviated after he decided that regional governors were unfit to be elected by popular vote. In view of his reforms to the Federation Council and the limited success of United Russia in dominating regional legislatures in 2003 and 2004, the idea that the very existence of popularly elected regional governors was perceived as a threat by Putin is easily understood. The 2004 terrorist attacks in Beslan provided Putin with the justification to assert federal dominance over regional politics. Describing the attacks as attributable to the mismanagement and irresponsibility of regional officials, Putin submitted a law to the Fourth Duma that proposed the elimination of popular elections of regional governors; it was passed in 2005. Taking its place would be a "consultation" process in which Putin "suggested" candidates for governor to the regional legislatures who would then "deliberate" over whether they would "approve" them. The obvious reality was that regional legislatures could do little but accept the executive's suggestion for governor. With the power to appoint regional governors secured, Putin greatly enhanced incentives for regional actors to pledge allegiance to United Russia, lest they be replaced by a more emphatically avowed Putin


62 loyalist (Wilson 2006, 337). In doing so, Putin structured political incentives for regional governors around the federal center and United Russia itself. With popular election no longer a factor in the strategic calculus of regional governors, their legitimacy and political influence have been considerably eroded. Their influence remains almost only as conduits for patronage from the federal center. Also, with the political power and relevance of these governors removed, United Russia became far more powerful in regional legislatures as incentives for political cooperation were channeled toward their party rather than the office of the governor (Gel'man 2008, 920). Taken as a whole, Putin's reforms to regional politics have a clear goal: the absolute marginalization of regional political influence. At every turn, regional political elites have had their power and independence undercut by the Putin administration. By making such dramatic changes to regional political institutions Putin was able not only to marginalize the power of potential rivals, but completely destroy the alternative bases of political influence that so severely impeded Yeltsin during his tenure. By weakening the formal processes of politics at the regional level and destroying their autonomy, these regional institutions have become truly deinstitutionalized. Their formal powers and processes are virtually irrelevant for political outcomes. The electoral reforms undertaken by Putin at the federal level in 2005 can be seen as a logical extension of this strategy. By channeling all political and patronage towards the center, Putin has been able to make United Russia an unmatchable vehicle for dispersing prebendal benefits and assuring total support.


63 Managing the Competition: Putin's Illiberal Electoralism Putin's institutional engineering outside of the Duma has had a powerful impact on federal-regional dynamics in the Russian Federation, but the restructuring of these federal-regional dynamics has occurred within the context of a wholesale transformation in the character of electoral competition in Russia. While institutional changes and the marginalization of regional politics explain a great deal about the unchecked power that the executive holds in contemporary Russia, they do not fully explain the electoral successes of United Russia in the elections for the Fourth and Fifth Dumas. To understand how United Russia came to dominate not just parliamentary factions, but also the popular vote, it is important to consider the ways in which legitimate electoral competition has been stifled and subjugated over the course of the Putin era. Consolidation of control over the national media, the use of state agencies to suppress opposition, the manufacturing of false opposition parties, and intense electoral manipulation have created conditions in which alternatives to United Russia have been systematically prevented from mounting a credible threat to Putin's party. One of the more obvious and unfortunate methods by which Putin has secured electoral primacy for United Russia is by eliminating all forms of privately owned national broadcast media. In today's Russia all nationally distributed radio and television networks are owned in whole or in part by the state or a state-owned corporation (Lipmann and McFaul 2010, 116-9). Private news media in post-Soviet Russia expanded rapidly in the early 1990s. The first national private television network, NTV, was started


64 by Vladimir Gusinsky in 1993 and became a home for outspoken critics of the Yeltsin administration. Over the course of Yeltsin's first war in Chechnya, NTV became a crucial media fixture for those opposed to the war and helped foment disapproval of Yeltsin's military actions both at home and abroad. Gusinsky acquired several other large newspapers and radio stations over the course of the 1990s, and by the time Putin came to power his company, Media-Most, was a media powerhouse on a national level. A second media baron, Boris Berezovsky, began his career with Kremlin assistance. A backroom deal with the Kremlin late in the Yeltsin's first term gave Berezovsky part ownership and functional control of the large national television station Ostankino, that Berezovsky ironically renamed ORT or "Russian Public Television". NTV and ORT combined forces in the 1996 election cycle to help Yeltsin retain power over challenges from an opposition including Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former prime minister Evgeni Primakov. But in the 1999 election cycle, while Berezovsky and ORT stayed on to support Putin and Unity, Gusinsky's NTV backed neither. While this ostensibly would make Berezovsky an asset and an ally to Putin, he would soon face the same fate Gusinsky. Gusinsky had made the unfortunate mistake of offering an equity share of NTV to state-subsidized natural gas and oil firm Gazprom in 1996 in order to fund NTV's expansion. After the Russian financial crisis of 1998, Gusinsky was left heavily indebted to Gazprom and quite vulnerable to the state. After Putin's election, the executive brought the full force of the state administration to bear against Gusinsky's company, intimidating the media magnate through a long string of business litigation and charges brought


65 against Gusinsky personally. In 2000, Gusinsky fled Russia, and in 2001 Gazprom obtained a controlling share in the ownership of the Media-Most. The Russian state obtained a controlling share in Gazprom in 2005 and from then on dictated the editorial line at all of Media-Most's outlets, or simply shut them down ( Lipmann and McFaul 2010, 114-5). Despite his support for Unity and Putin, Boris Berezovsky suffered a similar fate, though the details of the Kremlin's takeover of ORT are far less clear. While Berezovsky had helped Putin considerably in his first presidential campaign, the powerful media influence of Berezovsky obviously made Putin uncomfortable. Berezovsky had been helpful, but Putin had no use or tolerance for independent sources of political power, even if they were on his side. After Berezovsky was threatened with criminal prosecution in 2001, it is believed that Putin loyalist and oligarch Roman Abramovich purchased ORT in a clandestine, coerced deal in 2002. To this day the actual ownership of ORT (now renamed Channel One) remains unclear. What is certain is that, since Berezovsky's departure, the channel has been a steadfast mouthpiece for the Kremlin (Lipmann and McFaul 2010, 116). With the dismantling of private control over these two networks, national broadcast television became the exclusive purview of the state. Accordingly, all national television networks have been functionally used as a propaganda apparatus of United Russia. Whether lambasting Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003 or providing universally favorable coverage to the little-known Dmitri Medvedev in 2007, state-administrated television has been an indispensable tool of the Putin regime. Crucially, this


66 transformation of national media has been preserved without excessive coercion; television managers have found the business of serving the regime quite lucrative, unsurprisingly. With their exclusive access to a national audience attracting huge advertising sums and additional subsidization as organs of the state, managements at these television networks have zero incentives to upset the Kremlin. It seems almost redundant to say that these state-administered television networks have supported United Russia at every opportunity (Wilson 2006, 331). However, not all media in Putin's Russia is owned by the state, just all national broadcast media. Independent local and regional newspapers and television stations still exist, and some manage to be quite critical of the Kremlin, but their influence pales in comparison to the state-owned media (Lipmann and McFaul 2010, 120-4). As Putin was consolidating his control over the media, he took further steps to streamline the Russian party system and minimalize electoral threats to Unity. The 2001 "Law on Political Parties" introduced the first wave of party system reform. The law required political parties to meet certain registration criteria with the Ministry of Justice, and these criteria were made more stringent under the 2005 law "On Duma Elections". In 2001 parties were first required to register their party rules, program, and membership with the Ministry of Justice. The original law required parties to prove a nationwide membership of at least 100,000 with party branches containing 100 members in no fewer than 45 of Russia's federal units. These standards were later raised to 500,000 members with 500 members in at least 45 federal units and at least 250 members in every unit of the Russian Federation. The law also banned party platforms articulated on the basis of


67 racial, national, ethnic, or regional identities. As mentioned before, these requirements made regional parties virtually and literally illegal. After 2005, parties seeking registration were also required to submit the previously described 60 million ruble deposit with the Ministry of Justice. The 2005 law also introduced more stringent requirements for the validity of the signatures each party was required to collect in order to obtain registration. Whereas before a party could still obtain registration if 25% of the necessary 200,000 signatures were found invalid, this standard was moved to under 5% of collected signatures. Importantly, political parties with registered factions in the previous Duma were exempt from either submitting signatures or a deposit to the Ministry of Justice. The 2005 law introduced a further constraint on individual deputies' choices by forcing any Duma deputy who voluntarily left their faction to forfeit their seat (Wilson 315-41). The intention and the effect of these regulations were to introduce greater barriers to forming new competitive electoral parties. The complexity of the laws and the incredible number of separate steps required for registration made it possible for the Ministry of Justice to disqualify a party on almost any basis. The strategic application, and non-application, of the 2001 law was used during elections to the Fourth Duma to marginalize the new opposition party Liberal Russia. In order to hedge against the chance of discrimination from the Ministry of Justice, Liberal Russia based their party platform and rules on the registration application submitted by United Russia (Wilson 2006, 324). Predictably, the Ministry of Justice found far more problems in Liberal Russia's registration documents. The Ministry of Justice said that Liberal Russia's membership


68 regulations were illegally vague, but in fact they were more specific than United Russia's. Where United Russia's membership rules were written to "correspond to the legislation of the Russian Federation," Liberal Russia's went as far as to specifically reference "article 23 of the law 'On Political Parties." The Ministry of Justice also disqualified Liberal Russia on the inclusion of its goal of the "election of a Party candidate to the office of President of the Russian Federation" in its party program. The Ministry of Justice neglected to notice that this passage was lifted almost verbatim from the United Russia platform (Wilson 2006, 324). The real reason for Liberal Russia's woes became obvious in the coming months. Nine days after the party leadership voted to expel media magnate Boris Berezovsky from the party, the Ministry of Justice registered Liberal Russia. The party's revised charter, that corrected their alleged transgressions, was not submitted until one month later. Stemming the flow of viable opposition parties into electoral competition through stricter party regulation has not been the only strategy that the Putin administration has used to manipulate the party-system playing field. The executive branch has also founded and funded several large satellite parties to splinter the electoral power of real opposition parties and simulate legitimate competition in legislative elections. The satellite parties also serve a third function, they provide something of an insurance policy for the ruling elite. In the event that United Russia begins to fade in popularity, which seems to be the case after their diminished share of the popular vote in the elections to the Sixth Duma, the patronage mechanisms by which it functions can be sustained by one of these ideologically differentiated "reserve" parties (Mart'ianov 2007, 71). Thus, these parties


69 not only help United Russia stave off viable challengers, but also provide a false challenge to United Russia that actually helps secure the power of its ruling elite. The 2003 elections for the Fourth Duma saw the rise of several Kremlinengineered puppet parties designed to undercut support for legitimate opposition parties. The SLON party was created by the Kremlin to sabotage the electoral success of liberal democratic parties such as Yabloko and was in fact headed by a former deputy chief of Yabloko, who had been suddenly persuaded to run against his former colleagues (Wilson 2006, 324). The Kremlin attempted to co-opt the other side of the spectrum, the communist vote, with a leftist, nationalist coalition known as Rodina (Motherland). At the time, both parties seemed to be headed by legitimate opposition politicians but the facade began to unravel. After Rodina chief Sergey Glazyev admitted that Rodina was a Kremlin puppet, he was promptly sacked and replaced with pro-Kremlin Alexander Babakov (Gel'man 2008, 922-3). In the 2007 elections for the Fifth Duma, the Putin administration started fresh with two new fake opposition parties. A less-than-welcome takeover of the Democratic Party of Russia by the Kremlin resulted in that party running on the slightly comical platform of Russian accession into the European Union, in an attempt to split the liberal vote. The Putin administration again tried to undercut the Communist Party (KPRF) by manufacturing a new leftist bloc out of the remnants of Rodina and several other small leftist parties. The new party, dubbed 'A Just Russia' absorbed many former liberals and communists who were attracted to the patronage of United Russia without wanting to be publicly tied to it. Nevertheless, A Just Russia was vocally pro-Putin and attempted to fill


70 something of a 'loyal opposition' role in the elections, even going so far as to endorse Dmitry Medvedev for the presidency. Initial support for the party seemed substantial, leading Putin's right-hand man Vladislav Surkov to suggest it could be the "left leg" of the regime to United Russia's "right leg." But after Putin announced his intention to run at the top of United Russia's party list for the parliamentary elections, support for the proPutin shell party evaporated and was transferred to United Russia (Gel'man 2008, 923-4). One might expect that, with all of these explicit advantages afforded to United Russia in the electoral process, there would be little else for the regime to do to secure the electoral dominance of United Russia, but the Kremlin has taken no chances. Elections during the Putin era have displayed systematic falsification of results, coercion of the opposition, and privileged access to instruments of state power by United Russia. Supposed falsification in the 2000 presidential election delivered Putin whopping majorities in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia, regions that were terrorized by Prime Minister Putin's anti-terror military campaigns in 1999. Anecdotal evidence from this election relates stories of ballot boxes being stolen, stuffed with ballots, and getting lost for hours en route to their territorial counting stations (Fish 2005, 33-51). Subsequent elections have also seen United Russia benefiting from disproportionate positive attention and airtime from state-run media that simultaneously lambasts the opposition ( Lipmann and McFaul 2010, 120-3). In addition to glowing media coverage, United Russia has also had the privilege of using office space in state-owned properties and access to a full panoply of the administrative resources of the government bureaucracy at their disposal. A 2004 bill restricting the conditions under which political demonstrations can be held


71 has also helped marginalize the role of opposition voices during the electoral process (Remington 2008a, 978). Considered together, these efforts have significantly skewed the electoral playing field in contemporary Russia. With the presidential administration's control of the media and election registration, a varied cast of opposition imposters, and the full power of the state bureaucracy to ensure desired electoral outcomes, the possibility of a "fair" election in any sense in Russia is virtually non-existent. These mechanisms of power have helped guarantee Putin's and United Russia's dominance in all presidential and parliamentary elections since 2000. The systematic destruction of fairly contested elections in Russia has consolidated United Russia as a party of power with no viable challengers. Any assessment of the influence of Putin's change to electoral mandate on the composition of the Duma cannot be made outside of the context of this broader electoral manipulation. Putin Versus the Oligarchs: The Phony War Much has been made of Vladimir Putin's supposed marginalization of the oligarchs, the corporate and financial elite that made their fortunes of off the disastrous privatization of the Yeltsin era. When Putin took office, the corporations run by these oligarchs were politically powerful and had direct access to channels of state power. Putin's first two terms as president saw a considerable erosion of the independent political power of Russia's wealthiest individuals. However, the idea that Putin somehow cleaned house in the state bureaucracy, purging the influence and access of these individuals is


72 very misleading. To the contrary, the wealth of the oligarchs as a class (but not their power) has expanded under Putin (Rutland 2010, 170). While Putin did engage in several large public campaigns against certain oligarchs, for the most part these interests have been subsumed underneath the United Russia umbrella. Rather than expelling Russia's corporate elite from the halls of power, the government has co-opted them and compelled them to rely on the executive for the security of their assets and the protection of their interests. Unlike the Yeltsin era, in which these actors held considerable leverage over the state, the executive branch now functionally constrains their choices and is the conduit for all political and financial incentives these actors would hope to obtain. Whereas the political economy of the Yeltsin era was based on horizontal bargaining between the state and the oligarchs, the Putin era has been characterized by the establishment of a "power vertical" that is unequivocally dominated by the executive (Rutland 2010, 168). In this regard, the key phenomenon of the Putin era has been the so-called "crosspenetration" of the elite capitalist class and the state bureaucracy (Tompson 2005, 166-7). The presidential administration and its allies have blurred the lines of state and corporate power to the point that they are difficult to distinguish in some cases. The advantages here are clear for both sets of actors. By colonizing state structures, the corporate class is able to extract benefits from policy formation and secure favorable conditions for their particular interests. This colonization of state structures also allows the executive bureaucracy to control the terms by which this bargaining takes place and constrain the political maneuverings of the oligarchs (Tompson 2005, 164). The constraints imposed by the presidential administration represent the new "rules of the game" for the oligarchs.


73 In exchange for supporting the president's agenda and refraining from political activity, the oligarchs are allowed to maintain their access to the prebendal mechanism of the state and see their fragile property rights protected (Rutland 2010, 170). Thus rather, than destroying the oligarchs, Putin has subordinated them and made them yet another instrument of the dominant-party regime (Tompson 2005, 174). The strategies of the executive branch have focused on building stronger and more explicit links between state and economic power while making public examples of elites who deviated from the executive's wishes. One element of this strategy was the gradual expansion of state ownership in key industries, particularly the energy industry. In 2004, Putin launched a public campaign to bring more of these industries under heavy state influence, and by 2007 it was estimated that the state's total shareholding portfolio was equal to some $467 billion (in 2007 dollars), a figure equivalent to 40% of the capitalization of the Russian stock exchange (Rutland 2010, 175). The expansion of state ownership has created "state oligarchs" whose management positions in powerful companies and state institutions are attributable solely to Putin's patronage. Shortly after taking office Putin moved to consolidate his support in several prominent state-owned corporations. In one instance, the long-time head of state-owned gas and oil firm Gazprom, Rem Viakhirev, was sacked and replaced with a young Putin loyalist named Alexei Miller. In 2002, Putin removed the head of the Central Bank and replaced him with his administration's deputy finance minister (Rutland 2010, 174). Putin has also secured oversight over many large corporations by placing personal friends and loyalists on their corporate boards. Igor Sechin, Putin's deputy chief of staff who is often seen as


74 the linchpin of the security apparatus within the regime, was appointed to the chairmanship of state-owned oil firm Rosneft in 2004. Prominent manufacturing firms such as Aeroflot, Almaz-Antei, Zarubezneft, Rosoboroneksport, Sovkomflot, the United Aircraft Building Corporation, and the Federal Arms Procurment Service were all headed by individuals either recruited from Putin's former KGB cadres or selected from officials simultaneously serving the Putin administration in some official capacity (Rutland 2010, 176).. A 2007 survey of Russian corporate governance found that 29% of the firms in their sample had a government representative as an official member of their corporate board. Nevertheless, in that same year, Putin told members of the Chamber of Trade and Industry that, "We do not want to create state capitalism..." (quoted in Rutland 2010, 176). The most prominent example cited to reinforce the notion of a Putin administration at war with Russia's oligarchy is the well-publicized and ongoing persecution of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of the massive firm Yukos. However, in light of the political-economy context of Putin's subordination of the oligarchs, the Khodorkovsky case can be seen for what it truly was, a potent lesson for the oligarch class about their proper place and their explicit vulnerabilities within the new system. Yukos had acquired the natural resource assets that created Khodorkovsky's fortune during Yeltsin's privatization. In 2003, Khodorkovsky who was at that time the wealthiest man in Russia, began hinting at his interest in a political career, with rumors abounding that he might even seek to challenge Putin for the presidency. While the prospects of a presidential run never outgrew mere speculation (Putin made sure of that),


75 Khodorkovsky did pour massive amounts of money into opposition parties across the political spectrum in the run-up to the 2003 elections to the Fourth Duma, in the hopes that at least one would be able to challenge the supremacy of United Russia. Khodorkovsky even sponsored research by political analysts who concluded that the Russian constitution should be changed to give the Duma more power over the Prime Minister and his cabinet than the President. The fame, wealth, and international recognition of Khodorkovsky made him a legitimate political threat. Putin gave the order for his arrest and the destruction of Yukos Oil in the summer of 2003 and by October, Khodorkovsky was behind bars, where he remains to this day (Rutland 2010, 166). The obvious lesson to the oligarchs from this case was that any sort of overt political ambition invited the onslaught of the Putin regime, but a second powerful lesson can be gleaned by the manner in which the state bureaucracy and the justice system, at Putin's behest, destroyed Yukos. Yukos and its shareholders had been charged with tax fraud on the basis of tax optimization strategies that saw healthy portions of the company's revenue held in overseas accounts, a practice that is not and has not been uncommon in post-Soviet Russia. Prior to 2003, charges related to tax optimization had been handled through settlements between Yukos and the government. However, once Putin expressed his desire to detain Khodorkovsky, the Tax Ministry proceeded to pretend that these settlements had never taken place. The Tax Ministry filed a back-taxes claim against Yukos for the 2000 fiscal year that served as the basis for a plethora of further indictments and brought the company close to bankruptcy in 2004, well after Khodorkovsky's arrest. When it became clear in court that the Tax Ministry had


76 processed the back-taxes claim incorrectly, the Tax Ministry revoked the claim before Yukos had the chance to challenge it in court, without returning the funds that the firm had paid to the state. The Tax Ministry then argued that since the provisions of the subsequent indictments (that were predicated on the validity of the revoked back-taxes claim) were already being enforced, that the legality of the original claim was irrelevant. In a poignant display of the arbitrary power, the courts accepted the Tax Ministry's argument and allowed Yukos to be taken over by the state and dismantled (Tompson 2005, 163-66). The arbitrary manner in which the state justified the destruction of Yukos is a perfect illustration of the reason why oligarchs have become dependent on the executive in the Putin era. The aforementioned cases of Berezovsky and Gusinsky provide further evidence of this dynamic. What has become clear from this example is that no other institution holds sufficient authority or capacity to enforce property rights outside of the executive or in the face of executive aggression. The weakness of the rule of law allows the executive to coerce economic elites with the constant insecurity of their holdings. Neither the judiciary nor the state bureaucracy is able to put a substantive check on the actions of the executive, and as such the property rights of those who benefited so greatly from privatization are secure only insofar as the executive sees it convenient (Rutland 2010, 169). In the absence of any other strong institutions, only the executive can guarantee secure property rights for the oligarchs, and Putin has used this deinstitutionalization of all state structures of power outside of the executive to enter into a grand bargain of sorts with the oligarch class. In exchange for political compliance, the


77 state will not swoop in and take everything they own. Reportedly, Putin made this arrangement quite clear at a July 2000 summit with prominent business leaders, in which he promised that there would be no reversal of the privatization if these actors changed their behavior vis-ˆ-vis the state. In keeping with the political dynamics that make executive dominance viable, such an agreement was never formalized (Tompson 2005, 168). This total vulnerability to legal and financial punishment has left wealthy elites with two strategies: exit and loyalty. Many oligarchs have fled Russia, even those with a comfortable relationship with the regime. Roman Abramovich, who helped the state take over Berezovsky's ORT network, still fled to the United Kingdom to take up several new and more relaxing hobbies like buying fleets of luxury yachts and soccer teams. The oligarchs who have remained in Russia face considerable commitments to the Kremlin. They now fully realize just how important it is not only to stay out of politics, but to help the presidential administration fully realize its agenda by any means necessary (Rutland 2010, 169). But these oligarchs are well-compensated for their trouble; loyalty to the regime gives them access to and influence in the streamlined apparatus for policy formation and patronage distribution that is called United Russia. Under the auspices of a political party, Putin has established mechanisms of patronage that appease economic elites and maintain unwavering support for the executive agenda.


78 United Russia: The Dominant-Party Patronage Machine Thus far we have seen the ways in which Putin's institutional reforms and informal interventions have structured legislative and political incentives towards the center, marginalized regional actors, undercut rival parties, and subjugated the once influential corporate oligarchy. What remains to be explained is how these various punishments of independent political actors have been counterbalanced by a system of rewards for loyalty through the superior access to state resources afforded to members of United Russia. Putin's strategies have gone farther than just removing all incentives to oppose or interfere with the executive agenda, they have also included the construction of a patronage machine in parliament that effectively accommodates the interests of corporate and regional elites who have seen their independent political power destroyed over Putin's tenure. In creating such mechanisms for distributing patronage, the centralizing tendencies of Putin's electoral-mandate reforms have been reinforced, United Russia deputies in the Duma have the power to benefit tangibly both from clientelistic arrangements with regional and corporate actors outside of Putin's inner sanctum and their own power over government spending. To put it succinctly, not only is supporting Putin the least risky option for any Duma deputy wishing to keep a seat, it also comes with a veritable boatload of cash. These monetary rewards are the glue that keep the proPutin party together and the subjugated elites complacent. But from where does the state get all of this money? Oil and gas revenues have played a massive role in funding United Russia. The state's full or partial ownership in all


79 of Russia's top energy-producing firms has been a lucrative source of revenue for stuffing that state's coffers and the pockets of United Russia deputies. After the breakup of Yukos and the sale of its individual production units to state-owned corporations, companies in which the Russian government owned a majority stake rose to 42% by 2008 (Rutland 2010, 175). The mid-2000s saw a huge consolidation of the Russian oil sector as Gazprom and its state-owned counterpart Rosneft bought out numerous smaller, but by no means small, independent producers such as Nortgaz and Sibneft. By 2010 Gazprom alone had annual exports estimated at $30 billion (in 2010 dollars) (Rutland 2010, 174). The expansion of state ownership of the oil industry and the steady rise of global oil prices from 2000 until 2008 has proven a boon to the Russian treasury and has been indispensable in sustaining the growth of expanded social spending programs and state investment funds that have served as cover for the dispersal of patronage benefits. These oil revenues and the disproportionate control of state agencies over them have created a perfect incubator for corruption. By most assessments Russia is horribly corrupt, a 2005 assessment ranked Russia 132 nd out of 147 countries, directly between Haiti and Nigeria (Fish 2005, 130). The massive concentration of oil wealth in the hands of the state agencies has made these agencies perfect conduits for funding patronage. Unlike a classic rentier state, Russia still relies on tax revenue to fund the government, with more than two-thirds of state revenue coming from taxation. However, the legal revenue collected annually by the Russian government, in a 2002 study, was almost entirely offset by the estimated amount spent on bribes and kickbacks for government officials (Fish 2005, 130). While the state's oil revenues may not be sufficient to fund an


80 expansive social safety net and low taxes, there is certainly more than enough oil money flowing to fund patronage within the organs of the state (Fish 2005, 120-34). United Russia has been used as the main vehicle for the dispersal of this patronage since it attained unquestioned dominance in the Fourth Duma, in which Putin's agenda shifted dramatically to the consolidation of his own power and the funding of the party's patronage network (Remington 2008a, 975). United Russia is not a programmatic political party in any traditional sense, but functions primarily as a mechanism for rent extraction and a forum for streamlining elite collective action. There are several advantages afforded by this type of patronage-regime configuration. The first, clearly, is the removal of legislative uncertainty in the Duma. By subsuming inter-elite conflicts, United Russia guarantees the passage of the president's agenda regardless of the potential benefits or threats to particular industrial, regional, or corporate interests. The singleparty structure similarly eliminates the possibility of alternative bases of elite representation within the Duma (Gel'man 2008, 917-18). The creation of a party-based patronage system also streamlines the prebendal process, bringing all of the regime's patronage commitments under one tent. This overarching structure for the patronage network allows personalist clientelistic relationships to form between deputies and particularistic interests, but it also introduces a form of external governance on these relationships that structures the behavior of the actors involved (Gel'man 2008, 918-21). The expansive character of the interests incorporated into the United Russia patronage network is aided by the party's nebulous ideological identity. United Russia's role as an instrument of executive management of the Duma requires a certain degree of


81 ideological flexibility. As such the party's positions tack a middle line between marketoriented and state-centered economic reforms and pro-Western and anti-Western foreign policy stances. The purpose of the party is not to make these ideological commitments, but to find justification for passing whatever is most politically expedient to the executive (Gel'man 2008, 921). Boris Gryzlov, the long-time official head of United Russia described the party's ideology in comparable terms. Gryzlov (2008, 84) says that the foundation of United Russia's ideology is the formation of a strong Russian state capable of protecting its citizens. Gryzlov claims the party believes, "a strong Russia is a united Russia." This is used as an explanation of why the party is devoid of a strong ideology. Gryzlov argues that the political values of the Russian people are fundamentally centrist and that representing these interests, rather than the extreme left or right is the goal of the party (Gryzlov 2008, 84). Hypothetically, this vague appeal to some sort of postideological technocratic politics could be appealing after the tumultuous Yeltsin era, but in practice it has allowed United Russia to avoid even pretending that it does anything other than serve the executive branch. United Russia, however, does serve interests outside of the executive. Apart from passing the president's agenda, it hammers out acceptable bargains between different regional and corporate interests. Russia's elite do battle within United Russia, outside of the public view, to secure their interests (Mart'ianov 2007, 78). One such battle took place over a proposed law that would grant state-owned Gazprom exclusive rights to the exportation of natural gas. The Gazprom faction, led by then deputy prime minister and chair of Gazprom's corporate board, Dmitry Medvedev, was pitted against a faction


82 supporting the also state-owned Rosneft, which was led by deputy chair of the presidential administration Igor Sechin. The two factions, representing both different state-owned corporations and different parts of the executive branch in the Duma battled it out for months over just how exclusive Gazprom's export rights would be. Tellingly, Putin and the executive bureaucracy waited out the fight until an acceptable compromise had been reached before coming out in support of the compromise (Remington 2008a, 982). While there is no effective legislative opponent to United Russia, there is considerable tension within the party itself. United Russia has developed informal internal factions based upon the advocacy of certain interest groups including oil companies, railroad companies, and regional governments. The former deputies of Russia's Regions (absorbed by United Russia) lobby for smaller regional oil producers, and the former Luzhkov supporters of Fatherland-All Russia (also absorbed by United Russia) have secured several large public works projects in Moscow (Remington 2008b, 216-7). The practice of resolving disputes between opposed factions within United Russia was accompanied by a disappearance of Putin's consultative committees and the "zero readings" taken to ensure passage before bills ever hit the Duma floor (Remington 2008b, 222). In recent years, the drafting process has replaced these informal presidential working groups as the forum for resolving elite disputes. Patronage benefits are secured and compromises are made among the numerous factions within United Russia before a bill ever reaches the Duma floor for its first reading. In this way, the party has become an efficient vehicle for facilitating elite collective action while requiring no concessions or


83 hard bargaining from the executive branch. Instead, the use of United Russia as a bargaining forum has allowed the executive to divide and rule these particularistic interests while providing them with sufficient patronage incentives to maintain loyalty and firm stakes in the status quo (Tompson 2005, 172). While Putin has not removed the informal bargaining that characterized his interactions with the Third Duma, he has removed the necessity of executive involvement in the process and any uncertainty that his agenda will be passed. Deputies within United Russia are also recipients of substantial personal patronage rewards for serving the presidential agenda. Starting with the Fourth Duma in which United Russia held a two-thirds factional majority, Putin authorized the creation of a bevy of new social spending programs, state investment funds, and state corporations in a wide range of industries. The creation of these new corporations allowed Putin to reward loyal elites with lucrative jobs as managers and members of corporate boards. State investment funds essentially became reliable sources of income for United Russia deputies and the broad social spending mandates allowed deputies to easily orchestrate kickbacks for their regional and corporate affiliates while claiming credit for raising the standard of living of ordinary Russians (Remington 2010, 48-52). United Russia also provides slush funds for deputies' private use, private automobiles, and access to a host of other pleasantries and benefits that make United Russia membership attractive to Duma deputies even considering the hard work of orchestrating massive kickbacks for their special interests and for themselves. In return, these deputies have supported the president's agenda with little to no resistance (Remington 2008b, 214).


84 While deputies of United Russia certainly get to enjoy the good life on public funds, the real power enjoyed by non-elite members of United Russia and their security within the system are debatable. United Russia as a party has very little influence over policy formation. While party members oversee the day-to-day business of parliamentary politics, the policy agenda of the party is dictated by the Kremlin. Thus, non-elite members of United Russia have little political power; they are functionally staff hired and rewarded for sitting in the Duma and rubber-stamping the presidential agenda and as such are practically disposable to the Kremlin (Gel'man 2008, 920). Several examples make clear just how unimportant the actual deputies of United Russia are to the Kremlin. After United Russia came to power in the Fourth Duma, the government formed by Putin did not contain a greater number of United Russia members than the previous government. Even Boris Gryzlov, one of the more prominent voices in United Russia at the time, owed his position to his close personal ties to Putin rather than his role within the party (Wilson 2006, 337). In 2004, when Prime Minister Kasyanov and his cabinet resigned, United Russia vocally proclaimed that it would be involved in choosing the new government. But when Putin nominated Mikhail Fradkov to the position of prime minister, he formed the government without any input from United Russia, and the party had no choice but to support Putin's choice (Gel'man 2008, 922). Perhaps most embarrassingly for the prestige of the party, when Putin announced that he would head United Russia's party list in the elections to the Fifth Duma and become the party chair, he declined to formally join the party (Remington 2010, 49). What is clear from these trends is that United Russia as a party does not control the government, the government


85 controls United Russia. While party members hold little sway over legislative politics, Putin and the elites surrounding him own and operate United Russia wholesale. Thus United Russia is not a political party in any substantive sense, it is merely another instrument of Vladimir Putin's rule. Russian Politics? What Russian Politics? The dramatic steps towards centralization taken during Putin's first two terms as president have had a devastating effect on the quality of Russian democracy, if the political system in contemporary Russia can be described as such in any sense. The destruction of regional politics, complete manipulation of electoral competition, deinstitutionalization of all state structures outside the executive, and establishment of United Russia as a patronage mechanism have done more to solidify Putin's control than any mere reform of mandate type could ever hope to achieve. As such, the effects of Putin's reform to Duma elections must be taken within this context. While these mandatetype reforms did make substantive changes in the behavior of Duma deputies in favor of the executive and the federal center, they did not cause the incredible centralization of political power witnessed under Putin's rule. Mandate-type reform must thus be seen as yet another element of Putin's strategy to eliminate all other bases of political power or influence in the Russian Federation. Taken together, Putin's overall centralization agenda has had the effect of destroying public politics in Russia. With no viable alternatives to the party in power,


86 Russians face an electoralism without choices that can hardly be described as democratic in even the loosest sense. Furthermore, with the chief conflicts in the Duma taking the form of internecine squabbles between elites behind closed doors, the institution most closely associated with popular representation has become a rubber-stamp body beholden to the will of the executive. Against this background, the Duma has been subjugated to the executive through the formation of a massive web of corruption that permeates every aspect of state administration in the Russia. In sum, the Putin administrations between 2000 and 2008 engendered an effective depoliticization of Russian politics. Ideology, policy, and political discourse have become ancillary concerns of a regime more concerned with maintaining and consolidating the status quo. While Putin was chillingly successful with these strategies over the course of the first decade of the twentieth century, questions remain about the long-term viability of such a system. The recent mass protests seen across Russia in the wake of the 2011 elections for the Sixth Duma and the 2012 presidential elections raise serious doubts about the durability of a system that completely marginalizes and persecutes public participation while maintaining electoral facades. The undercutting of regional and local political institutions, as well as national institutions outside the executive, has created a system in which political and prebendal incentive structures are centered on the executive branch and the personage of Putin himself. While this mass centralization undertaken on multiple fronts is responsible for Putin's absolute dominance of Russian politics since 2000, it may yet prove to be his, and United Russia's, undoing.


87 Chapter IV Conclusion The Duma's evolution from a fractionalized, contentious body under Yeltsin into an obedient scion of the presidential administration under Putin displays trends that are inconsistent with the prescriptions of mainstream institutional analyses. The superpresidential constitution that Yeltsin passed in 1993 would presumably grant the president wide latitude in his dealings with the Duma, but throughout Yeltsin's tenure he faced substantial and sustained opposition that impeded his agenda and forced legislative bargaining by the executive. The electoral-mandate reforms made by Putin would be expected to create a more open, pluralistic party system, but instead the Duma has been dominated by a pro-presidential bloc for more than a decade. The counterintuitive results that have obtained in the Russian case suggest that executive-legislative balance between the president and the Duma and parliamentary dynamics in the Duma cannot be explained primarily by the rules that formally structure these institutions and the relationship between them. The insufficiency of institutional analyses in explaining the arc of the Duma's evolution suggests that factors apart from institutional change have had a decisive impact on legislative behavior in the Duma and its power vis-ˆ-vis the president. Specifically,


88 the centralizing character of Putin's reforms outside of the Duma and the cooptation of particularistic interests within the Duma have been integral to the creation of a compliant pro-presidential majority. The sum total of Putin's formal and informal agendas over his first two terms as president has been a dramatic restructuring and recentralization of political and economic power in the Russian Federation. It is only within this context that the transformation of the Duma can be understood. Putin's destruction of alternative bases of political power through changes in regional institutions, the Federation Council, party-registration regulations, and the media drastically altered the political climate in which the Duma operates. In stark contrast to the open and bellicose debates in national politics under Yeltsin, the Dumas convened under Putin saw substantive political discourse managed, marginalized, and internalized by the presidential administration. The virtual disappearance of political influence outside of the executive branch and its allies allowed Putin to restructure legislative incentives on the basis of cooperation with the presidential agenda. With dominance over regional politics established by the federal center, Putin eliminated a key source of fractionalization in the Duma. Having mitigated regional influence and stifled the voices of the opposition, access to the channels of legislative power became the near-exclusive purview of Putin's allies. Putin's centralization of political influence and agenda-setting gave him substantial leverage over the corporate and financial interests that had lobbied the Duma so pervasively during the Yeltsin era. In the Third Duma, the pro-Putin bloc became the first reliable majority faction the Duma had ever seen. The implications of this majority


89 for particularistic lobbying was clear, access to the legislative mechanisms that had granted them policy influence in the past would now be controlled more tightly by the executive than it had ever been. Despite the occasional deviance by SMD deputies, Putin solidified control over the Duma's agenda and used it to implement the broad centralization measures that would consolidate his unchecked power. Incentives for particularistic interest groups to work through or with opposition parties disappeared, as they held little sway over the legislative output of the Duma. With these incentives to work with other factions removed, Putin was able to subsume these special interests within his legislative bloc. If the message was not yet clear enough to these elite actors, Putin's persecution of Khodorkovsky, Gusinsky, and Berezovsky drove the point home. Special interests that supported the executive and worked within the pro-presidential bloc would gain access to policy makers and legislative influence. Those who challenged the executive's authority stood to lose everything. Forming United Russia created a legislative vehicle by which the presidential administration could streamline the prebendal process. With competing elite interests brought under an umbrella faction, conflicts among elites over the allocation of state resources became internalized under executive oversight. This internalization of elite bargaining within the pro-presidential party removed the threat of the substantive policy content of the president's agenda being blocked or impeded by particularistic interests on the Duma floor. With this mechanism in place, the president could send his policy proposals to the party without having to worry about personally arranging compromises between competing interests. United Russia functions as an efficient forum for


90 accommodating and resolving conflicts between elite interests. The pro-presidential bloc's near-total absorption of these interests removed one of the last obstacles to executive dominance of the legislature. While these developments within the Duma provide richer insight into current executive-legislative relations than institutional analyses, it would be remiss to say that the institutional conditions did not have an impact on the Duma. Putin's abrogation of SMD mandates did create real centralizing incentives within parties and helped further diminish the direct influence of regional elites on the policy process. But these specific reforms did not create the dominant-party regime under Putin, rather they reinforced the effects of the other centralizing elements of the presidential administration's strategy. With these conditions in the Duma established, Putin was able to actualize the superpresidentialism inherent within the constitution to a degree that Yeltsin could never approach. Although the constitution was superpresidentialist in its provisions, it took far more than its mere ratification for superpresidentialism to be realized in the Russian Federation. Despite the lockstep control over the Duma that Putin enjoyed during his first two terms as president, some of the results of his centralization strategy may create difficulties for sustaining the dominant-party regime it established. The argument has been made that Russia differs from a classic model of authoritarian patronage in several ways that could have destabilizing consequences in the long run (Fish 2010). The main thrust of this critique is that the patronage network that currently exists under United Russia may in fact be too centralized for its own good. Powerful actors in United Russia


91 receive the most substantial benefits from their offices, these are the deputies that are able to tailor legislation to appease their corporate supporters and garnish benefits for themselves. Rank-and-file deputies do not have similar freedom to pursue and obtain massive prebendal benefits through legislation. Rather they must be contented with the rewards allocated on the basis of holding parliamentary office, which for United Russia members, as previously described, are still substantial. While this centralization of patronage might be quite enjoyable for the party leadership, it stands in stark contrast with the allocation strategies of classic authoritarian patronage parties. In Russia, the concentration of patronage and political loyalty at the center is done at the expense of maintaining loyalty at the regional level. With the elimination of SMD and the installation of presidentially appointed governors Putin has mitigated some of the risks that could be posed by uncooperative regional actors, but in mitigating these risks he may have introduced a different potential source of instability: a smaller, weaker web of patronage. This smaller, more geographically concentrated web of loyal supporters who have concrete incentives to maintain their allegiance provides less insulation from popular pressures than would a larger, regionally anchored patronage network. Whereas classic models of authoritarian patronage maintain stability at the regional level primarily through patronage, Putin's model has coupled this patronage with an assault on regional political power. Certainly, this may interfere with the loyalty that regional elites feel towards Putin's administration. The intensely centralized and personalized authority Putin exercises over United Russia could prove problematic to the durability of the dominant-party system. Faced


92 with some exogenous shock to the party's central leadership, it is not clear that the party and the patronage networks it contains could continue to function as they have. Putin has personalized power within United Russia to a remarkable degree; the party's platform, cohesion, legitimacy, and electoral support are inextricable from their charismatic leader. In the absence of such a leader, the ties that bind United Russia together as a patronage network, as an electoral coalition, and as a voting bloc in the Duma may be too weak to sustain the party's unity. United Russia is internally factionalized on the basis of clientelistic relationships between competing interest groups. There is a distinct possibility that the party could deteriorate into intense internecine competition over state resources in the absence of the authoritative central management that the Putin administrations have enforced. Putin's overcentralized executive dominance could also be threatened by the deinstutionalization of all other state organs of popular representation. Under Putin, regional executives, regional legislatures, and the national legislature have seen a massive erosion of their power and autonomy. This subjugation of alternative bases of political power has greatly aided Putin in his consolidation of executive dominance, but this deinstitutionalization is problematic for a regime that claims popular representation through electoral practices. By debasing these channels of representation, Putin has removed his opposition's incentives to contest his power through formal processes. Limiting the capacity of the electoral regime to reflect or articulate opposition to the executive has essentially made participation within the electoral system meaningless for his detractors. With the apparent futility of participating in formal institutions, informal


93 resistance becomes a more attractive option for Putin's opposition. The massive public protests that have rocked Russia since the elections for the Sixth Duma in December 2011 seem to support the idea that Putin's adversaries understand the utility of fighting him outside of the system he has engineered. The weakening of the Duma vis-ˆ-vis the executive could also spell trouble for the consolidation of United Russia as a coherent party. The Duma's subservience to the president limits incentives for building a career in legislative politics. Rank-and-file deputies within United Russia face constrained prospects for gaining power and influence through effective legislative action and as such cannot expect their political careers to advance on that basis. This constraint may not pose a huge problem to Putin, but it does introduce difficulties for United Russia as a political party. Given this context, it does not seem likely that United Russia will build a party leadership comprised of experienced, competent legislators capable of managing the party in the absence of executive control. United Russia has weak mechanisms for recruiting new party elites and does not produce elite rotation or replacement within the legislature. Putin essentially determines who the elites within United Russia will be, and as long as this arrangement of external management by the executive is in place, it is unlikely that United Russia will develop into an independently strong party. The winter of 2011 and spring of 2012 have seen the most tumultuous popular upheavals against the Russian government since the collapse of the USSR. With massive protest marches in the streets of major Russian cities following the elections for the Sixth Duma, it seems as if the cracks in Putin's model may be coming to light. In these recent


94 elections, United Russia's share of the party-list vote dropped to 49.5%, a substantial decrease from the 64.3% the party received in 2007 (RFE/RL, 12/06/2011). Putin's reelection to the presidency on March 4 th 2012, has sustained the protests that started in December. Across the country, protests have denounced United Russia as "the party of crooks and thieves" and called for a "Russia without Putin" (RFE/RL, 05/09/12). Putin was inaugurated to his third term as president on May 7 th 2012. Entering this third term, he faces a more hostile political climate than he has ever seen. Putin's power is safe for now, but popular pressure against him has escalated dramatically. In his first two terms as president, Putin consolidated his power, but if recent events are any indication, he may spend his third term desperately trying to preserve it.


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