Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 153

Election regulations stipulate that, as of December 14, no more public opinion polls may be published on the outcome of Russia’s parliamentary elections. In recent weeks, the sociologists themselves have been warning that survey results published in the final days of the campaign may be even less reliable than those published earlier. (5) The most professional admit that so many of Russia’s 105 million voters have not made up their minds how they will vote that it is impossible to predict the outcome with any accuracy. Alla Semchenko of the Vox Populi polling service says she expects many voters to make up their minds only on the eve of polling day itself. (6)

All the polls agree however that voter apathy, which blighted local elections in Russia last year and proved such a problem in Belarus and Ukraine, will not be a controlling factor in the coming elections. Semchenko predicts that over 50 percent of the electorate will vote, while Mark Urnov, head of the presidential analytical department, thinks turnout could be as high as 65 percent. Urnov says the turning point came in September, following the scare whipped up in the summer by the mass media that the elections might be canceled. Since then, there has been a steady increase in the number of people saying they intend to take part. (7) Apathy remains high among young voters, however, and this is expected to affect the results since young people are more likely than older ones to vote for reform-oriented candidates.

While many voters are expected to vote for communist or nationalist candidates in order to punish the government for the hardships caused by economic reform, opinions differ over how important a "red-brown" victory in the parliamentary election will be. The most alarmist positions have been expressed by former prime minister Yegor Gaidar and the newspaper Izvestiya, who have warned that victorious communist and nationalist deputies will immediately try to restore the Soviet Union, renationalize private property, and bring back central planning, the soviet form of government and censorship. (8) Others are more sanguine. Urnov argues that the communist/ nationalist presence in the new parliament is likely to be diluted by unaffiliated candidates running in single-mandate constituencies and that the "red-browns" will end up with around 30 percent of the seats in the new Duma — well short of the two-thirds majority required to override a presidential veto or amend the constitution. Urnov believes it will be "quite possible" for the president and the government to conduct a "constructive dialogue" with the new Duma.

Yeltsin’s envoy to the Federal Assembly, the jurist Aleksandr Yakovlev, is also unworried by the possibility of a communist/nationalist election victory. In an interview marking the second anniversary of Russia’s 1993 constitution, Yakovlev pointed out that the constitution is so drafted and presidential power so strong that it would be extremely difficult for the Duma to make radical amendments to the law. (9)

Election Demographics.