Russia After And Between Elections

MOSCOW: Communism has made a comeback and yet calm prevails in Russia, that is the curious result of the elections a fortnight ago.

The predicted shift of the Parliament to the left - not of tectonic, but still of tangible proportions - has happened. It looks like that the communists together with their possible fellow-travelers will control close to half of the Duma seats. This is short of a constitutional majority, but still a powerful instrument to influence policy. But the Russian Constitution requires a two thirds of Duma votes to pass a constitutional amendment. And without change of the constitutional balance of powers, the Duma remains relatively impotent vis-a-vis the president.

This is the main reason why the governing establishment and the markets reacted to the election results with equanimity. Another reason is that V. Zhirinovsky proved to be a paper tiger, while the communists now appear to be not so bad after all. Here the return of communists to power in Eastern Europe, where they have not reversed reforms (though they have slowed them) may be providing false assurance. And the nationalist party led by general A. Lebed -- another bogeyman with which members of the Russian liberal intelligentsia were alternatively threatening each other or falling in love -- did not make it to parliament. The general was elected, but in a single constituency district, perhaps demonstrating that his ability to pull in votes is not all he cracks it up to be. Much of his appeal (at least so far), may be lost, which goes some way toward explaining General Lebed's decision that he would prefer to run as the communist's candidate for president.

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