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1999 Duma Elections

 
Communist Party "Unity"

Fatherland—All Russia

 

The December 1999 elections significantly changed the balance of political forces in the new Duma in comparison to the previous two, resulting in a more “centrist” parliament. Although the Communists came in first as before, they lost their almost undivided dominance of the lower house. The pro-Kremlin Unity bloc came in a very close second. The steep rise in its popularity ratings cannot be explained only by the support of the military operation against the Chechen separatists or Putin’s charisma. The pro-government bloc was able to extract kudos from a general improvement in the economic situation, including growth in production, lower inflation, and the government’s efforts to meet wage and pension arrears.

 
Union of Right Forces

Liberal-Democratic Party

Yabloko

December 1999 Elections to the State Duma

Successful parties/blocs Party-list votes (%)
Communist Party (Gennady Zyuganov) 24.29
Unity 23.32
Fatherland—All Russia 13.33
Union of Right Forces 8.52
Liberal-Democratic Party (Vladimir Zhirinovsky) 5.98
Yabloko (Grigory Yavlinsky) 5.93

The vagueness of its political platform also played a part, as no one knew exactly what the recently appointed prime minister and the movement created almost overnight under his patronage stood for. Yet the voters appeared to be prepared to give Putin a chance and to support the new “party of bosses,” as all the old ones had been unable to meet their social expectations. This also explains the modest showing of the Fatherland—All Russia bloc: the coalition of powerful regional bosses, which had predicted a resounding victory only three months before the elections, came in third.

On the liberal flank, Yavlinsky’s Yabloko party seemed to have under­estimated significant changes in the social base of support of liberal groupings since the 1995 Duma elections. In the mid-1990s the core of its electorate was comprised of somewhat demoralized members of the intelligentsia, disoriented by the loss of the dominant influence they used to enjoy in the perestroika era. By 1999, with the rise of the Russian bourgeoisie, the social complexion of people with liberal leanings had changed: “chattering intellectuals” had to make room for the new business elite.

In contrast to the Union of Right Forces, Yabloko was unable to convince Russia’s entrepreneurs that it was a constructive party capable of promoting their interests through genuine compromise and cooperation with the government, rather than the party in a perpetual opposition that could only rend the air with empty promises.

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