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Russia's Party System: Is Russian Federalism Viable?

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Ordeshook, Peter C.
Date: 1996
Agency: Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
Series: Social Science Working Paper 962
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/5834
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Former Soviet Union
Subject(s): federalism
political reform
Abstract: "Is Russia likely to develop a stable or efficient federal system that matches the definitions of federalism commonly offered in the literature or the descriptions that characterize intergovernmental relations in Germany, Switzerland, or the United States? Unfortunately, our answer to this question is NO. Unlike other discussions of federal relations in Russia - discussions that focus on current economic circumstances, federal treaties, and relations between political elites - we reach this conclusion by taking the view that the extent to which a federal state integrates the functions of different levels of government is determined largely by its political party system and the incentives for cooperation engendered by electoral politics at all levels. Assuming that Russia will continue on the path of democratic reform, we consider the types of parties that are likely to emerge in the long run as a function of Russia's current constitutional structure, current electoral arrangements for choosing a president and a national legislature, and that structure political competition at the regional and local levels. We argue that parties in Russia wil l be more like those found in, say, Canada than in the United States and Germany. Russia's current electoral arrangements, in combination with the political institutional designs of its regional governments - designs that mirror the command and control systems inherited from the Soviet past and which focus power on regional governors - will continue to encourage only the development of a party system that is not only highly fractured at the national level but one that fails to create adequate incentives for cooperation between levels of government. Even if the Russian economy recovers in the next few years or so and even if reformers maintain their position in Moscow, an adversarial relationship will continue to exist between regional and national governments, a relationship that will merely move the state from one crises to the next. We conclude with several suggestions for political reform, including simultaneous election of Duma deputies and president, increased use of elections as a method for filling regional and local public offices, and alternative methods for forming the Federation Council. However, we remain pessimistic about the prospects for a well-functioning federal system since most if not all of these suggestions are unlikely to be pursued as political reforms."

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