Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 236

The vote count for Russia’s State Duma elections has not yet been made final, but it is unlikely to differ significantly from the preliminary results which have been coming out over the last twenty-four hours. As of nine o’clock this morning, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) had won 24.55 percent of the vote; the Unity bloc, 23.88 percent; Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), 11.98 percent; the Union of Right-wing Forces (SPS), 8.63 percent; the Zhirinovsky Bloc, 6.18 percent; and Yabloko, 5.94 percent. This result was based on a count of 90.17 percent of all the ballots cast (Russian agencies, December 21). According to one prognosis, the KPRF will receive 111 seats in the 450-seat Duma (68 of whom were on the party list and 43 voted to single-mandate districts), Unity will get 76 seats (10 single-mandate), OVR will get 62 seats (29 single-mandate), SPS will get 29 seats (5 single-mandate), Yabloko will get 23 seats (6 single-mandate), and the Zhirinovsky Bloc will get 17 seats (none of Zhirinovsky’s candidates contesting single-mandate districts won). The real balance of power in the new Duma will also depend on the orientation of 100 or more other deputies who were elected to single-mandate districts but are not affiliated with any bloc or party. KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov predicted yesterday that another twenty-five or so of these deputies will be pro-KPRF in orientation, while OVR predicted that it would gain the support of 50-54 of the independents.

According to one prognosis, the most likely contenders for the post of Duma speaker will be the OVR leader, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who might win the KPRF’s backing for that position, and former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who allied with Yabloko for the Duma election (Segodnya, December 21). Stepashin would likely win the backing of the pro-Kremlin forces–plus, of course, Yabloko–and thus beat Primakov for the speaker’s post. In addition, some observers have predicted that OVR will essentially split, because its top two leaders, Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (who won re-election as the capital’s mayor, with some 70 percent of the vote) are likely to lean toward an alliance with the KPRF. Other influential OVR figures, however, are pushing for an alliance with the pro-Kremlin forces. Indeed, OVR’s founder, Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, has called for the creation of a “stable centrist majority” in the new Duma made up of OVR, Unity, SPS and Yabloko, and categorically ruled out an alliance with the KPRF (Vremya-MN, December 21). Shaimiev could abandon OVR and essentially line up with Unity, taking a number of OVR members with him. Such defections, along with support from the Zhirinovsky Bloc and various independents, would give the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin enough support in the new Duma to prevent a vote of no-confidence in the government or constitutional changes reducing the powers of the executive branch. Putin has spoken out against such changes.

Putin, meanwhile, said yesterday that his government “must and will work with everyone in the new Duma no matter what party, group or coalition he or she belongs to.” Today Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky said that his faction will “continue to defend the interests and values we defended before” and thus will “remain independent and will not lean on anyone.” Most observers, including Vladimir Lukin, one of Yabloko’s leaders and Russia’s former ambassador to Washington, have attributed Yabloko’s weak showing in the Duma race to Yavlinsky’s call for a cease-fire in Chechnya and a negotiated settlement to the conflict there (Russian agencies, December 20-21).