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Russia's Multiparty System


During the reform years a multitude of political parties has appeared in Russia. If the success of democratization was measured by the number of parties, Russia would certainly rank among the worlds most democratically advanced countries. The problem, however, is that the efficacy of parties is judged not by their profusion but by the ability to articulate the interests of significant social forces, to promote these interests by engaging in national politics, and thus shape the countrys domestic and foreign policies. Measured by this yardstick, Russia is still behind more advanced Western democracies. 


By 2001, about 200 public organizations had emerged that regarded themselves as political parties. In July 2001, the law On the Political Parties of the Russian Federation came into force that stipulated rigid criteria that a political organization had to meet before it could be registered with the Russian Ministry of Justice as a political party. These include regular participation in elections, a membership of at least 10,000, and a developed branch structure with a membership of at least 100 people in at least 50 regions of Russia.

The law has proved effective in significantly reducing the number of political parties down to about 50 in late 2003 as most of the dwarfish parties of the 1990s failed to meet the new criteria and fell by the wayside. However, many analysts believe that ideally there should be no more than five to seven parties, as the voters are simply unable to appreciate the differences between parties when their number is above that level.

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