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Saturday, 18 December, 1999, 17:09 GMT
Analysis: How Russia's elections work

Election poster The Fatherland-All Russia Alliance - one of 28 parties to choose from

By Paul Anderson in Moscow

Russia's third democratic parliamentary elections since the collapse of communism are an organisational nightmare for the army of election officials fanned out across the vast country.

Russia at the Polls
What's at stake
Who's who
Russia's regions
More than 100 million people are eligible to vote, though according to the opinion polls, only about two-thirds of them will take up the offer.

In the days of the Soviet Union, rigged parliamentary elections were easy.

The country's communist leaders knew what the result would be and so they did not need to trouble themselves with the logistical nightmare which their democratic successors now face.

Complex voting

Crowded station Sheer numbers make a Russian election a huge logistical exercise
Across 11 time zones, 107m people are eligible to vote in 94,000 polling stations.

Voters will have two ballot papers to worry about.

From the first they select any one of no fewer than 28 registered parties.

Half the Duma seats are allocated by party lists. The rest go to first-past-the-post single mandate candidates.

Stalinist poster Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili promises voters an honourable life
Among the latter are a one-time world weightlifting champion, former astronauts, convicted criminals, Stalin's grandson, a handful of old generals and an woman who writes erotic fiction.

She is largely on her own, though. Russia is a country which still believes politics is a man's business and women are thinly represented.


It used to take 14 days to count the votes in Soviet times. Nowadays unofficial results will be known within hours of the polls closing in the western most part of Russia, the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

Five days later the old Duma meets to hand over formally to the new parliament, but it is generally an embarrassing affair - ill-tempered and best avoided, according to one deputy.

Political heckler Politics are much more boisterous in post-Soviet Russia
The new batch of deputies then go off on a long New Year break.

When they return, there is a long list of important legislation to consider, including whether to ratify the Start-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty and new tax laws. Russia suffers from chronic tax avoidance.

But important as the Duma's work is, presidential elections are just six months away and attention will be focused almost immediately on the grand manoeuvrings, scheming, backstabbing and mudslinging which accompanied the parliamentary vote and which will return with a vengeance for Russia's first transfer of real power since Boris Yeltsin took office in 1991.

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