Contextualizing the 2016 State Duma Election

in Russian Politics
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An overview is given of the 2016 Russian State Duma election, and its significance for the current Russian regime. As the first in a series of five articles in this edition of Russian Politics, it sets the 2016 State Duma election into context. It begins by discussing the role of the Duma in Russian politics, and reviews political developments between the protests that followed the 2011 parliamentary election, and the successful conclusion of the 2016 one. It then examines how institutional and political changes came together in the 2016 campaign. The resultant supermajority for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party is analyzed, before the remaining articles in this issue – which examine the issues of turnout, voting behavior, electoral manipulation and the future of the regime – are introduced.




Vladimir Gel’man, “Cracks in the Wall: Challenges to Electoral Authoritarianism in ­Russia”, Problems of Post-Communism 60, no. 2 (2013): 3–10.


Nikolai Petrov, “Crimea”, Russian Politics and Law 54, no. 1 (2016): 74–95.


Grigorii V. Golosov, “The September 2015 Regional Elections in Russia: A Rehearsal for Next Year’s National Legislative Races”, Regional & Federal Studies 26, no. 2 (April 2016): 255–268.


Andrei Schedler, The Politics of Uncertainty: Sustaining and Subverting Electoral Authoritarianism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 112–138.


Alexander Kynev, “How the Electoral Policy of the Russian State Predetermined the ­Results of the 2016 State Duma Elections”, Russian Politics 2, no. 2 (2017): 206–226.


Yury Korgunyuk, “Classification of Russian Parties”, Russian Politics 2, no. 3 (2017): 255–286.


Grigorii V. Golosov, “Do Spoilers Make a Difference? Instrumental Manipulation of Political Parties in an Electoral Authoritarian Regime, the Case of Russia”, East European Politics 31, no. 2 (2015): 170–186.


Kenneth Wilson, “How Increased Competition Can Strengthen Electoral Authoritarianism”, Problems of Post-Communism 63, no. 4 (2016): 199–209.


Central Electoral Commission, Vybory deputatov 2016. Elektoral’naya statistika, 198–204. (Two parties – The Union of Labour (Soyuz Truda) and Party of the Great Fatherland – had too many invalid signatures. The other two – Will (Volya) and the Native Party (Rodnaya Partiya) – presented too few.)


In March 2016, 87 percent of Russians thought that Crimea should be part of Russia and 64 percent that it had “always been Russian” [Levada-Center, “Krym dva goda spustya: vnimanie otsenki, sanktsii”, 7 April 2016, (accessed 25 August 2017)].


Ian McAllister and Stephen White, “‘It’s the Economy, Comrade!’ Parties and Voters in the 2007 Russian Duma Election”, Europe-Asia Studies 60, no. 6 (2008): 931–957.


Derek S. Hutcheson, “Party Cartels beyond Western Europe: Evidence from Russia”, Party Politics 19, no. 6 (2013): 907–924.


Ian McAllister and Stephen White, “Demobilizing Voters: Election Turnout in the 2016 Russian Election”, Russian Politics 2, no. 4 (2017): 411–433.


Allison C. White, “Electoral Fraud and Electoral Geography: United Russia Strongholds in the 2007 and 2011 Russian Parliamentary Elections”, Europe-Asia Studies 68, no. 7 (2016): 1127–1178.


Svetlana Sukhova, “Vladimir Churov: ‘Plokhoye delo okhaivat’ ne budut, znachit, vybory byli khorosho organizovany i proshli na vysokom urovne’”, Itogi, 6 December 2011,, accessed 28 June 2017.


Anna Baidakova, “Realno ‘Edinuyu Rossiyu’ podderzhali 15% izbiratelei: Intervyu fizika Sergeya Shpil’kina”, Novaya Gazeta, 21 September 2016,, accessed 30 August 2017. Shpil’kin has published his estimates of statistical anomaly for all federal elections since 1996: (accessed 5 September 2017).


Max Bader, “The Role of Precinct Commissions in Electoral Manipulation in Russia: Does Party Affiliation Matter?” Russian Politics 2, no. 4 (2017): 434–453.


Grigorii V. Golosov, “The Regional Roots of Electoral Authoritarianism in Russia”, Europe-Asia Studies 63, no. 4 (2011): 623–639; Cameron Ross, “Regional Elections and Electoral Authoritarianism in Russia”, Europe-Asia Studies 63, no. 4 (2011): 641–661; Graeme Gill, “Russia and the Vulnerability of Electoral Authoritarianism?” Slavic Review 75, no. 2 (2016): 354–373; Graeme J. Gill, “The Decline of a Dominant Party and the Destabilization of Electoral Authoritarianism?” Post-Soviet Affairs 28, no. 4 (2012): 449–471; Wilson, “How Increased Competition Can Strengthen Electoral Authoritarianism”.


William Zimmerman, Ruling Russia: Authoritarianism from the Revolution to Putin (­Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014); Vladimir Gel’man, Authoritarian Russia: Analyzing Post-Soviet Regime Change (Pittsburgh, pa: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015); ­Grigorii V. Golosov, “Authoritarian Learning in the Development of Russia’s Electoral ­System”, ­Russian Politics 2, no. 2 (2017): 182–205.


David White, “Modifying Electoral Authoritarianism: What the 2016 Parliamentary ­Elections Tell Us About the Nature and Resilience of the Putin Regime”, Russian Politics 2, no. 4 (2017): 482–501.


  • Indexed real Russian gdp 1991–2016, rubles (1 January 1991 = 100).

    View in gallery
  • Turnout and ur vote percentages, 2016 State Duma election.

    Plot shows the relative percentage of the ur vote by turnout level in the party list vote, across the 225 constituencies (electoral districts). Each data point represents one electoral district.

    View in gallery


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