The State Duma is the lower house of the Federal Assembly, the parliament of the Russian Federation. The first State Duma was elected on December 12, 1993 simultaneously with the adoption of the new Constitution in a national referendum. Unofficially it was also known as the "5th State Duma" (if one counts the first four, which existed between 1906 and 1917). The second (6th) State Duma was elected on December 17, 1995.
The Constitution sets the size of the State Duma at 450 deputies and its term at four years (the first Duma was elected for a transitional period of two years). The Duma can be dissolved by the President before its term in certain cases and under procedures stipulated by the Constitution. Any citizen of the Russian Federation aged 21 or over and having the right to take part in elections may be elected a Deputy of the State Duma. A State Duma Deputy may not simultaneously be a member of the Federation Council, a deputy of other representative bodies of federal or local government or a public servant; nor may he or she engage in another type of activity for remuneration with the exception of teaching, research and other similar creative activities.
Further details of the election procedures were established by federal law on June 21st 1995: "On Elections of Deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation".
Deputies of the State Duma are elected by citizens of the Russian Federation on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.
A citizen of the Russian Federation, on reaching the age of 18 on election day, has the right to vote and, on reaching the age of 21, has the right to be elected.
Servicemen vote at regular polling stations. The establishment of polling stations in military units is allowed as an exception if these units are located in isolated areas far away from population centers.
Setting Election Day:
The President of the Russian Federation calls the elections for the deputies to the State Duma. Elections are held on the first Sunday after the expiry of the constitutional term for which the previous State Duma was elected. The election day must be announced at least four months ahead of the elections.
Composition of the Duma and Electoral Districts:
Altogether 225 State Duma deputies are elected in federal electoral districts in proportion to the number of votes cast for the federal lists of candidates nominated by electoral associations and blocs.
The remaining 225 deputies are elected in single-mandate (one district - one deputy) electoral districts. The rules governing the formation of electoral districts are a compromise between the principle of equal representation (the uniform norm is 1/225 of the total number of voters in the Russian Federation) and the principle of representation of all regions (members of the Federation). Each region of the Federation has a number of electoral districts, but at least one, no matter how small its population. Fluctuations in the size of the electorate between districts in Federation members with more than one district should not exceed 10 percent, and in remote areas such fluctuations should be within 15 percent.
The layout of single-mandate electoral districts is the responsibility of the Central Electoral Commission and is approved by federal law. In the event that the layout of a district is not approved in time, elections are held according to the layout used during the previous elections.
Electoral Associations and Blocs:
All country-wide public associations whose statutes provide for participation in elections and which were registered by the Ministry of Justice of Russia not later than six months before the announcement of the election day have the status of an electoral association. Exceptionally, for the election of deputies to the second State Duma the six-month deadline for registration was calculated from the election day itself, rather than from the announcement of that date.
Electoral blocs are formed for the duration of the election campaign by two or more electoral associations and registered by the Central Electoral Commission.
By the time the 1995 election campaign got under way, 272 organizations with the status of electoral associations had been registered. As many as 115 of them used their right to contest the Duma elections: 42 did that independently, while the other 73 formed 30 blocs.
Out of this number, 40 electoral associations and 29 blocs had copies of the lists of their candidates certified and started collecting signatures. A total of 43 associations and blocs managed to collect 200,000 signatures each in support of their lists and were registered by the Central Electoral Commission for participation in the elections. But only four associations cleared the 5 percent barrier and won seats in the Duma from the federal electoral district.
In the districts, candidates were nominated by 69 associations and blocs, and 65 of them succeeded in having at least one candidate registered. A total of 23 associations and blocs had their candidates to the Duma elected from single-mandate electoral districts (including 12 associations and blocs ending up with one deputy each).
Nomination of Candidates:
The federal list of candidates and the list of candidates to stand in single-mandate districts from any electoral association is approved by secret ballot at a congress (conference) of the association. Candidates from a bloc are nominated at a joint congress (conference) of the member associations of the bloc.
The federal list of candidates and the list of candidates to stand for election in the districts from any electoral association are submitted to the Central Electoral Commission along with the charter of the association and the minutes of its congress. The minutes of the congresses of the associations that formed the bloc and the resolution on the establishment of the bloc, signed by authorized representatives of the bloc's members, are appended to the candidate lists.
Within three days, the Central Electoral Commission is to return certified copies of the lists to the association (bloc), after which the collection of signatures can be started.
A candidate in a single-mandate district can be nominated directly by the electorate. In this event the candidate or the initiators of his/her nomination are to inform the local electoral commission in writing about the commencement of the collection of signatures.
Collection of Signatures:
It is necessary to collect 200,000 signatures for the federal list, and the signatures of one percent of the voters in a district for each candidate nominated by an association or bloc in a single-mandate district. The signatures collected in support of a candidate from an electoral association (bloc) in a district are counted in the 200,000 signatures that are required in support of the federal list. The collection of signatures can be started as soon as an association has received a certified copy of its list of candidates from the Central Electoral Commission.
When a candidate is nominated directly by the voters, the signatures of one percent of voters in the electoral district must be collected in his/her support. Signatures may be collected from the day the list of single-mandate electoral districts is made public.
Registration of Candidates:
The federal lists of candidates are registered with the Central Electoral Commission and those of candidates nominated in the districts with the district commissions. Registration requires the presentation of the signatures and statements by candidates confirming their consent to stand for election. In single-mandate districts the candidates themselves are to submit the signatures in their support (failure to do this served as grounds for electoral commissions to refuse to accept signatures in support of several candidates who at the time were in custody pending trial or on foreign business trips).
Any candidate registered on the federal list of an electoral association (bloc) can simultaneously be registered in a single-mandate district from the same association (bloc), but cannot be registered as an independent candidate (nominated by the electorate).
If fewer than two candidates are registered in a district (or fewer than two lists in the federal district) the elections are put off for 60 days. If the number of candidates has dropped to less than two after the completion of registration but before the elections, the elections are put off for 100 days.
In the 1995 elections, 2,684 candidates were registered in the 225 single-mandate districts, including 1,086 independent candidates, the rest being nominated by electoral associations and blocs. A total of 43 federal lists nominating 5,746 candidates were registered in the federal electoral district.
The Status of a Candidate:
A candidate deputy, if he or she so desires, may be released from his job, military service or reserve training from the registration day to the day the final election results are published. In this event he or she is paid a cash compensation of not more than 10 minimum monthly wages by the electoral commission out of its funds.
A candidate cannot be dismissed from his job without his or her consent, or transferred to another type of work or position, including a position in another locality, or sent on a business trip, or called up for military service or reserve training.
A candidate nominated in a single-mandate electoral district is entitled to free travel on any type of public transport within the district. In cities with several electoral districts a candidate can use city transport free of charge in the entire city. A candidate who lives outside the electoral district in which he or she is standing for election is entitled to three free round trips by rail, water and motor transport (with the exception of taxi-cabs and chartered transport), or one free round trip by plane, with the district electoral commission paying his/her fare.
A candidate included in the registered federal list of candidates has the right to make one round trip within the territory of the Russian Federation by any type of intercity transport with the exception of taxis and chartered flights. In addition, a candidate included in a regional group of the list has the right to use free of charge any type of public transport within the confines of the territory of the member of the Federation. The trips are paid for by the Central Electoral Commission.
A candidate has the right to withdraw his/her candidature not later than three days before the elections. Similarly, not later than three days before the elections an electoral association or bloc may withdraw any candidate, with the exception of those in whose support signatures of voters were collected in single-mandate districts.
Following registration, no candidate may be held criminally liable, taken into custody or subjected to administrative penalties under a court ruling without the consent of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation.
Financing of Elections and Election Funds:
The preparations for and the holding of elections are financed out of the federal budget.
Candidates, electoral associations and electoral blocs form their own election funds to finance campaigning. The cash for election funds must be deposited on special temporary accounts with branches of the Savings Bank of the Russian Federation. No interest is calculated or paid on the temporary deposit.
Election funds can consist of:
- the money allocated to a candidate or electoral association by the electoral commission;
- the candidate's own money, which should not exceed 1,000 minimum monthly wages;
- the money allocated to a candidate by the electoral association (bloc), which should not exceed 1,500 minimum wages;
- the money of an electoral association (bloc), which should not exceed 100,000 minimum wages;
- voluntary donations from individuals should not exceed 20 minimum wages per donor and to the fund of an association, bloc or individual candidate, 30 minimum wages. Donations by legal entities to the fund of an individual candidate should not exceed 200 minimum wages and to the fund of an association or bloc 2,000 minimum wages.
The total election fund of a candidate may not exceed 10,000 minimum wages as set by federal law on the day the elections were called. The election fund of an association or bloc may not exceed 250,000 minimum wages.
Donations to election funds may not be accepted from:
- foreign states, organizations or nationals;
- stateless persons;
- Russian legal entities with foreign capital if the share of foreign capital in their authorized capital exceeds 30 percent;
- international organizations or civic movements;
- local government bodies, state-owned and municipal enterprises, institutions or organizations;
- military units, military institutions or organizations;
- charity organizations or religious associations.
Donations made in violation of the law are returned to the donor fully or partially (the part in excess of the permitted level). Anonymous donations are remitted to the state.
In the course of campaigning, candidates and electoral associations are not allowed to use any money except the money received by their election funds. If they do so, the electoral commission has the right to initiate legal proceedings to cancel the decision to register the candidate or the federal list of candidates.
Election funds that have not been spent are to be returned by the candidates to the electoral commissions within 30 days of the elections.
Thirty days after the publication of the election returns, the candidates are to submit financial statements to the district electoral commission, while the electoral associations (blocs) submit financial statements to the Central Electoral Commission.
Campaigning begins on the day candidates are registered and ends at midnight local time 24 hours before the election day. Any campaigning is banned on the election day and the day preceding it.
Campaigning can be conducted:
- through the mass media;
- through organizing public campaign activities (meetings with the electorate, public debates and discussions, rallies, processions, marches, etc.);
- by putting out and/or disseminating printed, audio-visual and other campaign materials.
Participation in campaigning or in disseminating any campaign materials is forbidden to:
- federal and local government bodies, and also to their officials when discharging their official duties;
- military units, military institutions and organizations;
- charitable organizations and religious associations;
- electoral commission members
Campaign programs, materials, speeches at rallies and appearances via the mass media must not contain calls for a violent change of the fundamentals of the constitutional system or for any breach of the Russian Federation's integrity. Campaigning for or propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or language supremacy or the production and dissemination of reports and materials inciting social, racial, national or religious unrest are banned.
Campaigning involving any offer to voters of free or cut-rate goods, services (with the exception of information services), securities or cash is forbidden. Candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs and their authorized representatives have no right to offer voters money, gifts or other valuables except as remuneration for campaign work (duty at polling stations, collection of signatures, etc.); or to sell them at cut-rate prices, or to give out goods free of charge with the exception of printed matter and badges. When campaigning, candidates, electoral associations, electoral blocs and their authorized representatives have no right to influence voters by promising them cash, securities or other material benefits.
Printed campaign materials may be displayed in any premises, on any building, structure, or other facility with the consent of the owner or holder of such facilities. Such materials must contain information about the organizations and individuals responsible for putting them out.
State-owned television and radio broadcasting companies must give candidates equal free air time. Printed periodicals, if their founders include government or municipal bodies, state-owned enterprises, institutions and organizations, or if they are financed fully or in part out of the government budget (federal budget or the budget of a subject of the Russian Federation), must give all candidates, electoral associations and blocs equal possibilities to publish their campaign materials.
On October 14, 1995, Rossiiskaya Gazeta published an official list of federal media outlets. The list included 4 television and radio broadcasting companies (Ostankino, the Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, Russian Public Television, St. Petersburg Television - 5th Channel); 5 newspapers Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Rossiiskiye Vesti, Krasnaya Zvezda, Krestyanskaya Rossiya and Gudok) and 3 magazines (Rodina, Rossiya and Rossiiskaya Federatsiya). The biggest government newspapers (Rossiiskaya Gazeta and Rossiiskiye Vesti) observed the principle of equality and refused to publish the campaign materials of any electoral associations or bloc (explaining this decision by the shortage of newspaper space and money). During the month preceding the elections, national television channels and radio broadcasting stations set aside one hour of air time daily for campaigning (half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening).
The Election Ballot:
The election ballot in the federal district consists of the names and symbols of electoral associations (blocs), the names of the first three candidates in the federal list and the regional list, including the corresponding member of the federation. The sequence of the names of the associations (blocs) in the ballot is decided by the drawing of lots. The last line in the ballot says, "Against all federal lists of candidates".
The ballots in single-mandate districts list the name, patronymic, surname, date of birth, place of work (position held), occupation and address of each candidate. Candidates are listed in alphabetic order.
Determining Election Returns:
Elections both in the federal district and in any single-mandate district are deemed valid if at least 25 percent of the voters have taken part. The "number of voters" taking part in the elections should correspond to the number of voters who have signed for receiving their ballots.
The 225 mandates in the federal district are distributed among associations and blocs that have each polled at least 5 percent of the votes of those voters who take part in the elections, such distribution being in proportion to the number of votes cast for them. The "number of voters" who take part in the voting means the number of ballots (including invalid ones) found in the ballot boxes.
A candidate who has polled more votes than any other candidate is deemed to have been elected in a single-mandate district. In the event of a tie, the candidate who registered at an earlier date is pronounced the winner.
The 1995 Parliamentary elections were deemed to have been valid in all districts. All Duma deputies' have been elected: 225 deputies were elected from the single-mandate districts and the other 225 mandates were proportionally distributed among the four electoral associations that had each polled more than 5 percent of the votes.
Filling Vacant Mandates:
When after the elections the mandate of a deputy elected on the federal list becomes vacant, it is transferred to the next candidate on the list. If there are no more candidates on the list, the mandate remains vacant till the next elections.
If the mandate of a deputy from any single-mandate district is terminated ahead of time, the Central Electoral Commission calls a by-election. However no such election is called if one year or less remains before the powers of the current Duma expire (which in the case of the second Duma is December 17, 1998).