Russian Democracy in Eclipse: What the Elections Tell Us

Issue Date July 2004
Volume 15
Issue 3
Page Numbers 20-31
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The December 2003 parliamentary and the March 2004 presidential elections witnessed worrisomely lopsided victories for incumbent president Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin-backed United Russia party. These victories were assisted by an unlevel electoral playing field. Russia’s political system has become less pluralistic on Putin’s watch. During his first term, Putin did little to strengthen democratic institutions and much to weaken them. These antidemocratic political “reforms” made it more difficult for opponents of the regime to compete effectively in the 2003–2004 electoral cycle. Nevertheless, these ballots also demonstrated the extent to which elections in Russia have become thoroughly institutionalized, and that they make more difficult the consolidation of authoritarianism.

About the Authors

Michael McFaul

Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, is professor of political science at Stanford University, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His most recent book is From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia (2018).

View all work by Michael McFaul

Nikolai Petrov

Nikolai Petrov is a scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center. His latest book, with Michael McFaul and Andrei Ryabov, is Between Dictatorship and Democracy: Russian Post-Communist Political Reform (2004).

View all work by Nikolai Petrov