- Formed in the wake of the constitutional crisis of 1993, the State Duma replaced the defunct Congress of People’s Deputies as the lower house of the Russian parliament. The Federation Council is the upper house; collectively the two are known as the Federal Assembly. The use of the word “Duma”—derived from the Russian verb dumat’ (to think)—reflects an attempt to resurrect the pre-Soviet democratic heritage of Russia (the first Duma was seated in 1906).As Russia’s primary legislative body, the State Duma has a number of duties under the Constitution of the Russian Federation: confirmation of the president’s choice for the office of prime minister; appointment and dismissal of the chairman of the Central Bank; bringing charges of impeachment against the president; and amnesty. All bills in the legislature must be written by the Duma’s deputies, before being debated and either approved or rejected by the Federation Council. If a bill is rejected, a compromise version may be agreed between the two houses.The Duma consists of 450 deputies, who serve four-year terms; the minimum age requirement is 21. The current chair of the State Duma is Boris Gryzlov; he has held the leadership position since 29 December 2003. Previous chairs include Gennady Seleznyov (1996–2003) and Ivan Rybkin (1994–1996).Since the 2004–2005 electoral reforms, election to the Duma is based on political party lists, with the seats being filled by the party electors. Prior to these changes, half of all candidates could stand for election in single member districts, needing a simple plurality to win the seat.The first Russian legislative election occurred in 1993 in the wake of the constitutional crisis. The ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) showed the best performance, winning 64 seats. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) also fared well, placing third. In 1995, the two parties switched places, with the KPRF winning 157 seats. The pro-Yeltsin party Our Home—Russia came in second. Four years later, the KPRF again placed first, though only receiving 90 seats, while the LDPR—running as the Zhirinovsky Bloc—dropped to sixth. The pro-Putin party Unity took second, while Fatherland—All Russia, a party backed by presidential aspirants Yevgeny Primakov and Yury Luzhkov, placed third.Following Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power, United Russia emerged as the uncontested master of the Duma, winning 223 seats in the 2003 election. The KPRF and the LDPR placed second and third, respectively. A new threshold requirement of 5 percent prevented smaller parties from winning proportional representation in the house, though single-member candidates did capture some seats for the lesser parties. In 2007, United Russia added 92 seats for a total of 315, while a threshold requirement of 7 percent—combined with the new party-list-only system—limited the number of parties receiving seats to four (United Russia, KPRF, LDPR, and Fair Russia). The elections were widely criticized in the international community— and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, in particular—as neither free nor fair.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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