Russian legislative election, 1999

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Russian legislative election, 1999
1995 ←
December 19, 1999
→ 2003

All 450 seats to the State Duma
226 seats needed for a majority
  Majority party Minority party
  Gennady Zyuganov Crooped.png Sergey Shoigu.jpg
Leader Gennady Zyuganov Sergey Shoigu
Party Communist Party Unity
Last election 157
Seats won 113 73
Seat change Decrease 44 Increase 73
Popular vote 16,196,024 15,549,182
Percentage 24.29% 23.32%
Swing Increase 1.37pp
Election results

Parliamentary elections were held in Russia on December 19, 1999.[1] At stake were the 450 seats in the State Duma (Gosudarstvennaya Duma), the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia. According to the 1993 electoral law, 225 members of the house were allocated proportionally, using statewide party lists, while other 225 members were elected in single-member constituencies, using first past the post system. Like in the previous election, this system resulted in a large number of parties competing for the proportional seats, as well as a significant number of independent deputies elected.


To secure a place on the ballot, parties had to have registered with the Russian Ministry of Justice one year before the election (instead of six months in previous elections). As an alternative to gathering 200,000 signatures, they had the option of paying a deposit of just over two million roubles, returnable if the party won at least 3.0 percent of the list vote. In order to increase proportionality, the law provided that if parties reaching the five per cent threshold got in total 50 per cent or less of the vote, parties with at least 3.0 per cent of the vote would also win seats by declining numbers of votes up to the point at which the total share of vote exceeded 50 per cent. However, if after this procedure the parties winning seats still had less than 50 per cent of the vote, the election was to be deemed invalid. In the single-member district ballots, if votes cast against all exceeded the votes of each candidate, a repeat election had to be held within four months. As a result, repeat elections had to be held in eight districts. Finally, as an alternative to gathering signatures in support of their nomination, single-member district candidates were also given the option of paying a deposit of 83,490 roubles, returnable if she won at least 5.0 percent of the district vote.


Our Home Is Russia still existed but was not a serious political force. Individual governors launched their own “governors’ parties” to fill the vacuum and, in some cases, to advance their own candidacies for the presidential race. Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov created a bloc called Fatherland in December 1998. In January 1999, Samara’s governor formed a bloc called Russia’s Voice. In April, Tatarstan’s president, Shaimiev, created All Russia. Kemerovo’s governor, Aman Tuleev, created a bloc called Revival and Unity[2] Then in August, Luzhkov and Shaimiev merged their blocs to form Fatherland–All Russia (OVR, for its Russian initials), naming former Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov as its head. This positioned Primakov as the prime contender for the presidency and the head of a powerful party of power. A number of smaller blocs immediately joined. OVR was the apparent next party of power. From the standpoint of the governors, the ideological orientation of a bloc was of little importance; the key was to back the right candidate for president.

Yeltsin named Vladimir Putin as prime minister and presumptive successor on August 9, 1999. At the same time, Yeltsin’s entourage - Boris Berezovsky is said to have been one of the initiators of the effort — began to form a Kremlin-supported electoral bloc to win away governors’ support from the OVR bloc. This they did when Putin invited a sizable group of governors to the Kremlin on September 27 to express his support for the new bloc that was being formed around cabinet minister Sergei Shoigu and to declare that “Fatherland could not be supported”.[3] Immediately, 32 governors announced their support for the new bloc. A few days later, on October 3, the Unity bloc was formally launched[4]

The official leader of Unity was the ambitious young Minister for Emergency Situations, Sergei Shoigu, who explained “Many people call us Putin’s party. Well, it’s true".[5] Previous efforts to create a “party of power” loyal to the Kremlin and with a majority in the State Duma (Russia’s Democratic Choice in 1993, and Our Home is Russia in 1995), had failed, partly because Yeltsin himself did not assume a direct leadership role.[6] Putin, as premier and then acting president, was closely associated with Unity, although he only formally endorsed it in November. It is difficult to explain Unity’s success: it had no program to speak of, its leaders were not well-known. Its association with the increasingly-popular Putin seems to have been the decisive factor.

The election was only 2 months away, but the Kremlin had made some headway in solving the commitment problem: Governors knew whom the Kremlin would back, and the Kremlin knew that most governors would lend their support to the new project rather than the rival OVR. A vicious media campaign directed against Primakov and Luzhkov, and a successful military campaign in Chechnya directed by Putin, also quickly reinforced Putin’s and Unity’s standing. By late November, Unity had surpassed OVR in the polls[7] In December, the effect of the remarkable turnaround in coordination was evident: OVR took 13.3% of the party list vote; Unity, 23.3%.

The contrast between the parliamentary parties and the presidential/pro-kremlin coalitions in the 1999 election could not be starker. First, neither Fatherland nor Unity participated in the last election. They are both unlikely to participate in the next parliamentary election. The 2000 presidential race was the focus of attention from the very beginning. Luzhkov created Fatherland to promote his presidential aspirations. Primakov joined Fatherland-All Russia to advance his presidential prospects. On behalf of Putin, the Kremlin created Unity to weaken Luzhkov and Primakov as presidential candidates. Neither coalition was very concerned with party development.[8]

Also, in contrast to stable levels of support expressed throughout the fall for the four parliamentary parties, popular support for these presidential coalitions fluctuated considerably in the last four months. Negative television coverage of Luzhkov and Primakov most likely contributed to Fatherland's fall, while incessant coverage of Shoigu's every move probably helped Unity. But Putin's popularity must also figure into the equation. Putin's decisive role in Chechnya most certainly sparked this rise in public support, although few at the time believed that a second intervention into Chechnya would be popular. After all, the first intervention was extremely unpopular. Putin's popularity eventually grew beyond Chechnya as people started to appreciate a leader of action in the Government. In addition, both of the coalitions relied heavily on regional leaders as members and allies. They fought each other for the support of governors and presidents and cared little about endorsements from parties or regional parliaments.[9]

The proposition that the parliamentary campaign was treated by major players as an elite-level primary for the non-Communist presidential nomination is also consistent with the dramatic decline of the initial favorite of the campaign, the electoral bloc Fatherland-All Russia. Former Prime-Minister Primakov, one of the bloc's two leaders was Russia's most popular non-communist politician in the summer of 1999[10] On August 17 Primakov formally accepted Luzhkov's invitation to lead the new bloc.

Internet usage[edit]

The first Russian internet election might reasonably be seen as the Duma elections of 1999, when the majority of parties sported websites. In the previous national elections in 1996 the only parliamentary party to have a website was the liberal Yabloko bloc, and this was an experiment not used for explicit electoral purposes.[11]


The distribution of the seats in the new Duma by political tendency differed substantially from the two previous Dumas: in this Duma, the left opposition was much smaller, and the pro-government forces much larger. However neither the Left nor the Right commanded a majority. A second similarity with the previous Duma was that, once elected, both party-list and SMD deputies immediately sought to join factions and registered groups, Although during their campaigns many candidates claimed that they were independent of any party influence, once elected, nearly every deputy affiliated with one of the Duma factions or registered deputy groups, and only 19 deputies chose to stay outside of any faction or registered group in the new Duma.[12]

Party PR Constituency Total
Votes % Seats Votes % Seats
Communist Party 16,196,024 24.29 67 8,893,547 13.73 46 113 –44
Unity 15,549,182 23.32 64 1,408,801 2.17 9 73 New
Fatherland – All Russia 8,886,753 13.33 37 5,469,389 8.43 31 68 New
Union of Rightist Forces 5,677,247 8.52 24 2,016,294 3.11 5 29 New
Zhirinovsky Bloc 3,990,038 5.98 17 1,026,690 1.58 0 17 –34
Yabloko 3,955,611 5.93 16 3,289,760 5.07 4 20 –25
Communists and Workers of Russia - for the Soviet Union 1,481,890 2.22 0 439,770 0.68 0 0 –1
Women of Russia 1,359,042 2.04 0 326,884 0.50 0 0 –3
Russian Pensioners' Party 1,298,971 1.95 0 480,087 0.74 1 1 New
Our Home – Russia 790,983 1.19 0 1,733,257 2.67 7 7 –48
Russian Party for the Protection of Women 536,022 0.8 0 0 New
Congress of Russian Communities-Yuri Boldyrev Movement 405,298 0.61 0 461,069 0.71 1 1 –4
Stalinist Bloc for the USSR 404,274 0.61 0 64,346 0.10 0 0 New
For Civil Dignity 402,754 0.6 0 147,611 0.23 0 0 New
All-Russian Political Movement in Support of the Army 384,404 0.58 0 466,176 0.72 2 2 New
Peace, Labour, May 383,332 0.57 0 126,418 0.19 0 0 New
Andreii Nikolayev and Svyatoslav Fyodorov Bloc 371,938 0.56 0 676,437 1.04 1 1 New
Party of Peace and Unity 247,041 0.37 0 0 New
Russian All-People's Union 245,266 0.37 0 700,976 1.08 2 2 New
Russian Socialist Party 156,709 0.24 0 662,030 1.02 1 1 New
Russian Cause 111,802 0.17 0 1,846 0.00 0 0 New
Conservative Movement of Russia 87,658 0.13 0 125,926 0.19 0 0 New
All-Russian People's Party 69,695 0.10 0 0 New
All-Russian Socio-Political Movement "Spiritual Heritage" 67,417 0.1 0 594,426 0.92 1 1 New
Socialist Party of Russia 61,689 0.09 0 30,085 0.05 0 0 New
Social-Democrats 50,948 0.08 0 18,618 0.03 0 0 0
Russian Ecological Party "Kedr" 112,167 0.17 0 0 0
Russian Patriotic Popular Movement 10,481 0.02 0 0 New
Russian Party 7,918 0.01 0 0 0
Russian Conservative Party of Entrepreneurs 2,647 0.00 0 0 New
Independents 27,877,095 42.98 105 105 +28
Against all 2,198,702 3.32 7,695,171 11.86 8 8
Vacant seats 1 1
Invalid/blank votes 1,296,992 1,429,779
Total 66,667,682 100 225 66,295,701 100 225 450 0
Registered voters/turnout 108,073,956 61.7 108,073,956 61.3
Source: Nohlen & Stöver, University of Essex

As a result of the elections, Communists returned with a tiny increase in their share of votes, but with a significant loss of seats, still retaining the plurality. The Unity bloc came close second, but was seen as the true winner of the elections. In January 2000, Unity formed a coalition agreement with the Communists, reelecting Gennady Seleznyov as the Speaker of the Duma. In 2002, however, the agreement fell through, but Seleznyov chose to leave the Communist party in order to remain the speaker until the end of the Duma's term.


The major contenders in the 1999 parliamentary elections were two parties of power, Unity and Fatherland–All Russia (OVR), who received 23.3 percent and 13.3 percent of the vote and occupied 80 and 69 seats, respectively. Their competition soon turned into cooperation. After the consolidation of the Russian elite around Vladimir Putin on the eve of the 2000 presidential elections, both parties of power and their allies established a pro-government coalition in the Duma. The centrist coalition of four factions and groups (Unity, OVR, Russia’s Regions, and People's Deputy) controlled a firm majority of 235 out of 450 Duma seats. In December 2001, Unity, OVR, and Russia’s Regions joined forces and formed a new political party: United Russia

Further reading[edit]

  • Hesli, Vicki L. & William M. Reisinger (2003). The 1999–2000 Elections in Russia: Their Impact and Legacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81676-9
reviewed by Luke March in: Slavic Review 63.4 (Winter 2004), 897–898.


  1. ^ Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p1642 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  2. ^ Sakwa, 2003, p. 132
  3. ^ Shvetsova, 2003, p. 225
  4. ^ Hale, 2006, p. 82
  5. ^ Quoted after Unity’s founding congress on December 28, which Putin addressed, in Sarah Karush, “With official blessing, Unity forms,” Moscow Times, December 29, 1999.
  6. ^ A. Ryabov, “Partiya vlasti” [The party of power] in Partiino-politicheskie elity i elektoralnye protsessy (Moscow, 1996), p. 5-16
  7. ^ Shvetsova, 2003, p. 226
  8. ^ Russia 's 1999 Parliamentary Elections: Party Consolidation and Fragmentation
  9. ^ Russia's 1999 Parliamentary Elections: Party Consolidation and Fragmentation
  10. ^ VTsIOM, August 20–24, 1999
  11. ^ Ivanov, Ispolzovanie Internet-tekhnologii, p. 44.
  12. ^ Russia's 1999 Parliamentary Elections: Party Consolidation and Fragmentation, Demokratizatsiya, Vol. 8 no. 1, page(s) 17