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Russia Under Putin: One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward
Journal Article

Russia's March 2000 presidential election represents one step forward and two steps back for Russian democracy. For the first time in Russia's history, power within the Kremlin has changed hands through an electoral process. The election not only took place but was conducted as constitutionally prescribed, no small achievement for a country with Russia's authoritarian history. More than two-thirds of the eligible voters participated, and they appeared to make informed choices among a range of candidates who offered competing platforms, policies, and leadership styles. The election, however, was not contested on a level playing field. The winner, acting president Vladimir Putin, enjoyed tremendous advantages that tainted the process. Although weak in some arenas, the Russian state still enjoys too much power with respect to the electoral process, while nongovernmental forces--political parties, civic organizations, trade unions, and independent business groups--remain too weak to shape the outcomes of elections.

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