Russia’s array of political parties, based largely on Moscow-centered personalities with presidential aspirations rather than coherent policy programs, continued its seemingly directionless evolution in 1999 with the appearance of two new ‘parties’—Otechestvo and Edinstvo—each designed primarily to facilitate presidential aspirations. In contrast and despite wrenching economic changes, Russia from 1991 through 1996, at least, offers the picture of a surprisingly stable electorate in which the flow of votes across elections from one party or candidate to the next follows a coherent and not altogether unpredictable pattern. Aggregate election returns suggests that this pattern persisted through the 1999 Duma balloting to the 2000 presidential election. The KPRF, as well as Yabloko, won nearly as many votes in 1999 as in 1996, while the votes lost by Our Home Is Russia, the LDPR, Lebed’s allies in 1996, and a bevy of other small and not altogether anti-reform parties nearly account for Otechestvo and Edinstvo totals. Here, however, we offer a close examination of official rayon-level election returns from both 1999 and 2000 and conclude that this picture of stability masks the importance we ought to attribute to the influence of regional governors and their abilities to direct the votes of their electorates in a nearly wholesale fashion. We argue, moreover, that this conclusion is important to the matter of reforming Russia’s institutions so as to encourage a coherent party system. Specifically, rather than focus on electoral institutional reform, we argue that the principal culprit in explaining the failure of a coherent party system to materialize is the influence of Russia’s super-presidentialism.

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