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"United Russia"

 

The result of the 1999 election was a Duma in which the Kremlin could almost always muster the required number of votes needed to pass important bills by using the mechanism of a shifting coalition, that is, by drawing alternatively on the support of the liberals on the right or the Communists on the left. Virtually all the parties in the Duma, from diehard Communists to economic liberals, were keen to give Putin a chance.

 
Putin addressing United Russia congress

 

As result, the political landscape changed drastically. In the Yeltsin era Yury Luzhkov, had enjoyed unlimited power in the capital as the mayor of Moscow and even had presidential ambitions. Now he threw in the towel, surrendering completely to Putin’s camp, and even agreed to the merger of his party Fatherland—All Russia with the president’s Unity bloc, his erstwhile archrival. The new parliamentary, coalition of Unity and Fatherland—All Russia, formed in December 2001 and called United Russia, removed completely any threat of noncompliance in the parliament.

Moreover, two smaller factions – Russia’s Regions and People’s Deputy – hastened to join the two bigger organizers of the merger, also expressing their intention to become part of Putin’s voting machine. The coordinating council of the four parliamentary factions ensured a stable majority to rubber-stamp the Kremlin’s legislative initiatives. As the four factions had together over 226 seats, they were able to garner a simple majority in the 450-seat parliament.

The new coalition left out the Communists, who were accorded the role of the opposition. But Putin reined them in, and they remained more or less resigned to his dominance. The liberal faction in the Third Duma, represented by Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, headed by the liberals, such as Boris Nemtsov and Yegor Gaidar, strove to promote itself as a “third force,” but had little real influence on the balance of power in the Duma. Moreover, the liberals in the Union of Right Forces firmly supported the president in his initiatives to promote the development of the market economy.

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