The result of
the 1999 election was a Duma in which the Kremlin could almost
always muster the required number of votes needed to pass important
bills by using the mechanism of a shifting coalition, that is, by
drawing alternatively on the support of the liberals on the right or
the Communists on the left. Virtually all the parties in the Duma,
from diehard Communists to economic liberals, were keen to give
Putin a chance.
As result, the
political landscape changed drastically. In the Yeltsin era Yury
Luzhkov, had enjoyed unlimited power in the capital as the mayor of
Moscow and even had presidential ambitions. Now he threw in the
towel, surrendering completely to Putin’s camp, and even agreed to
the merger of his party Fatherland—All Russia with the president’s
Unity bloc, his erstwhile archrival. The new parliamentary,
coalition of Unity and Fatherland—All Russia, formed in December
2001 and called United Russia, removed completely any threat of
noncompliance in the parliament.
smaller factions – Russia’s Regions and People’s Deputy – hastened
to join the two bigger organizers of the merger, also expressing
their intention to become part of Putin’s voting machine. The
coordinating council of the four parliamentary factions ensured a
stable majority to rubber-stamp the Kremlin’s legislative
initiatives. As the four factions had together over 226 seats, they
were able to garner a simple majority in the 450-seat parliament.
coalition left out the Communists, who
were accorded the role of the opposition.
But Putin reined them in, and they remained more or less resigned to
his dominance. The liberal faction in the Third Duma, represented by
Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, headed by
the liberals, such as Boris Nemtsov and Yegor Gaidar, strove to
promote itself as a “third force,” but had little real influence on
the balance of power in the Duma. Moreover, the liberals
in the Union of Right Forces firmly
supported the president in his initiatives to promote the
development of the market economy.