Veto Players and Major Electoral Reforms in Russia

In: Russian Politics
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  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics
  • | 2 National Research University Higher School of Economics

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Within the period of 1993–2014 Russia experienced four major electoral reforms: in 1993, 2002, 2005 and 2014. One further attempt to change the Russian electoral system, initiated by President Yeltsin in 1994–95, was unsuccessful. We suggest that the successes as well as the failures of the electoral reforms in Russia can be explained with the same reasons as in other countries regardless of their political regime. In our view, electoral reforms within any political system are rooted in the specific arrangement of the veto players within the system and their political preferences. This paper demonstrates that major electoral reforms were successfully implemented in cases when the executive branch headed by the Russian president, striving for maximum control over the legislative process, was interested in such implementation and there were no other veto players able to block passage of the law.

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  • 3

    Alexandr Veshnyakov, “Tsentralizatsiya nuzhna dlya zashchity demokratii”, Kommersant Vlast’, 26 July 2002, 26.

  • 5

     See, e.g. G.V. Golosov, “The regional roots of electoral authoritarianism in Russia”, Europe-Asia Studies, 63, no 4 (2011); D. White, “Re-conceptualising Russian party politics”, East European Politics, 28, no 3 (2012); V. Gel’man, Authoritarian Russia: Analyzing Post-Soviet Regime Change (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015).

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  • 6

    G. Tsebelis, “Decision making in political systems: Veto players in presidentialism, par­liamentarism, multicameralism and multipartyism”, British Journal of Political Science, 25, no 3 (1995); G. Tsebelis, Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work (Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 2002).

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  • 7

    T.F. Remington & S.S. Smith, “Political goals, institutional context and the choice of an ­electoral system: The Russian parliamentary election law”, American Journal of Political Science, 40, no 4 (1996); Gel’man, “Institutional Design”; M. McFaul, “Institutional Design, Uncertainty, and Path Dependency During Transitions: Cases from Russia”, Constitutional Political Economy, 10, no 1 (1999); S. White & I. McAllister “Reforming the ­Russian Electoral System”, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 15, no 4 (1999);R.G. Moser & F.C. Thames, “Compromise Amidst Political Conflict: The Origins of Russia’s Mixed-Member System”, in: M.S. Shugart & M.P. Wattenberg eds., Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: The Best of Both Worlds? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); S. Birch et al., Embodying Democracy: Electoral System Design in Post-Communist Europe (Gordonsville: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002).

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    • Export Citation
  • 8

    B. Moraski, “Electoral System Reform in Democracy’s Grey Zone: Lessons from Putin’s Russia”, Government and Opposition, 42, no 4 (2007); B. Moraski, “Revisiting Russia’s Electoral System Reform: The Importance of Context and Comparative Perspective”, Government and Opposition, 44, no 2 (2009); R. Smyth, A. Lowry & B. Wilkening, “Engineering Victory: Institutional Reform, Informal Institutions, and the Formation of a Hegemonic Party Regime in the Russian Federation”, Post-Soviet Affairs, 23, no 2 (2007); K. Wilson, “Party-System Reform in Democracy’s Grey Zone: A Response to Moraski”, Government and Opposition, 44, no 2 (2009); S. White & O. Kryshtanovskaya, “Changing the Russian Electoral System: Inside the Black Box”, Europe-Asia Studies, 63, no 4 (2011).

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    • Export Citation
  • 9

     See, e.g. V. Sheinis, “The Devolution of the Electoral System in Russia”, Russian Politics and Law, 52, no 2 (2014): 64; Gel’man, Authoritarian Russia, 133.

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  • 12

     See, e.g. Hallerberg, “Empirical Applications”; S. Ganghof, “The Empirical Uses of Theoretical Models: The Case of Veto Player Theory”, Political Studies Review, (2015) doi: 10.1111/1478-9302.12098.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 13

    E. Herron, “Political Actors, Preferences and Election Rule Re-Design in Russia and Ukraine”, Democratization, 11, no 2 (2004).

  • 16

    M. Hooghe & K. Deschouwer, “Veto Players and Electoral Reform in Belgium”, West European Politics, 34, no 3 (2011).

  • 17

    Tsebelis, Veto Players, 17–18; Hallerberg, “Empirical Applications”, 39.

  • 20

    Tsebelis, Veto Players, 19.

  • 21

    Tsebelis, Veto Players, 19.

  • 22

    Tsebelis, Veto Players, 17.

  • 23

    Tsebelis, Veto Players, 78.

  • 24

    I.S. Grigoriev, “Prichiny provala pervogo proekta konstitutsionnogo pravosudiya v postsovetskoi Rossii”, Politeia, 14, no 2 (2013).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 31

    Gel’man, “Institutional Design”, 57–58.

  • 33

    T.F. Remington, “The Russian Federal Assembly, 1994–2004”, The Journal of Legislative Studies, 13, no 1 (2007); P. Chaisty, “The Legislative Effects of Presidential Partisan Powers in Post-Communist Russia”, Government and Opposition, 43, no 3 (2008).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 37

    McFaul, “Institutional Design”, 43; Moser & Thames, “Compromise Amidst Political Conflict”, 273.

  • 38

    McFaul, “Institutional Design”, 43.

  • 39

    Gel’man, “Institutional Design”, 61; McFaul, “Institutional Design”, 43.

  • 40

    Remington & Smith, “Political goals”, 1271–1275; Moser & Thames, “Compromise Amidst Political Conflict”, 272; Birch et al., Embodying Democracy, 138.

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  • 43

    O.J. Reuter & T.F. Remington, “Dominant Party Regimes and the Commitment Problem: The Case of United Russia”, Comparative Political Studies, 42, no 4 (2009); Gel’man, Authoritarian Russia.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 44

    T.F. Remington, “Majorities without Mandates: The Russian Federation Council since 2000”, Europe-Asia Studies, 55, no 5 (2003).

  • 48

    T.F. Remington, “Putin and the Duma”, Post-Soviet Affairs, 17, no 4 (2001); Remington, "Russian Federal Assembly”.

  • 52

    A.V. Kynev & A.E. Lyubarev, Partii i Vybory v Sovremennoi Rossii: Evoliutsiya i Devoliutsiya (Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2011).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 56

    G.V. Golosov, “Sfabrikovannoe bol’shinstvo: konversiya golosov v mesta na dumskikh vyborakh 2003 g.”, Polis. Politicheskie Issledovaniya, 15, no 1 (2005).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 58

    S.P. Roberts, “United Russia and the Dominant-Party Framework: Understanding the Russian Party of Power in Comparative Perspective”, East European Politics, 28, no 3 (2012); Gel’man, Authoritarian Russia.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 63

    Moraski, “Electoral System Reform”, 544.

  • 70

    Reuter & Remington, “Dominant Party Regimes”; G.V. Golosov, “The Territorial Genealogies of Russia’s Political Parties and the Transferability of Political Machines”, Post-Soviet Affairs, 30, no 6 (2014); Gel’man, Authoritarian Russia.

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  • 73

    Gel’man, Authoritarian Russia, 106–108.

  • 75

    Moraski, “Electoral System Reform”, 551.

  • 80

    G. Rahat & R.Y. Hazan, “The Barriers to Electoral System Reform: A Synthesis of Alternative Approaches”, West European Politics, 34, no 3 (2011).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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