In October 1998, Yeltsin defeated his opponents by military force and thus communicated a clear message about both his power and his resolve to achieve his objectives. After this, he presented a new institutional design for organizing politics in Russia. His enemies as well as the population as a whole had to decide whether to accept or reject the rules. To hasten their decision making, Yeltsin called for new elections and a referendum on the constitution balance of power within Russia. A fear existed that those who rejected the new rules would suffer the consequences. Politicians had to decide if they wanted to express their discontent through a political system created by Yeltsin or if they wanted to go off on their own and not participate. Every choice was a tactical move.
Yeltsin's new super-presidential system promised to fuel polarization. Some predicted civil war and others foresaw fascism. Russia's major political actors decided to participate in parliamentary elections in 1993 and 1995, and most importantly in presidential elections in 1996. But why did they decide to acquiesce to the electoral process? First, the factors that had impeded the emergence of new political institutions in the first two periods were not as salient in a period between 1985-1993. The new second factor was a clarified balance of power between opposing political forces. And the third factor, path dependency, is also brought into analysis. These new political rules stuck because an increasing number of political actors found it in their interests to abide by them. The cost of rejecting the rules was much greater than just abiding by them.
This chapter traces the evolution of electoralism as a feature of the Russian political system by discussing the three elections, 1993, 1995, and 1996, in brief. The aim is not to explain the electoral outcomes but rather to explain why participants agreed to play the electoral game. However, the outcomes of these elections constitute a central component of this explanation about institutional consolidation and therefore are discussed within this context.
[...] Militant communist groups denounced the procedure as unconstitutional and vowed to reinstate the old constitution. Chechen leaders did not allow the referendum to take place at all in Chechnya. Beyond the narrow focus on the legitimacy of the new constitution, the fact that the elections occurred at all helped consolidate new political practices in Russia. After the December elections, a poll was conducted which showed a 20% increase in the number of people who thought that the elections were free and fair. [...]
[...] The decision about how to participate was much more difficult. Ultimately, forging a united front of reformist, pro-Yeltsin forces proved to be an impossible task. The perception that the balance of power had shifted in their favor actually helped to divide Russia's reformist forces. No longer united by the fear of communist restoration, Russia's democratic forces believed that they had the luxury of running as separate parties. At the start of the 1993 parliamentary elections, everyone assumed that Russia's Choice would prevail and that the reformist parties together would capture a majority of seats in both houses. [...]
[...] the electoral outcomes but rather to explain why participants agreed to play the electoral game. However, the outcomes of these elections constitute a central component of this explanation about institutional consolidation and therefore are discussed within this context. The 1993 Elections In October 1993 there was great uncertainty who would participate, who would be allowed to participate, and how different political groups would decide to participate in the elections. The democrats decided to act as several different parties rather than one united bloc, and by this they helped to create the impression that the opposition won a landslide victory in the 1993 elections. [...]
[...] The priority for the Yeltsin campaign between rounds was voter turnout. Polls showed that the greater the turnout, the more likely it was that Yeltsin would win. Most analysts predicted that voter turnout would decrease in the second round. Throughout the 1996 campaign, postponement loomed large. It was a way to avoid civil war and keep stability. The election, according to some, could destabilize Russia. However, in the end, the choice was made not to postpone the vote and the greatest threat to Russia's fragile electoral process had been narrowly avoided. [...]
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