The first contested elections in Russia (1989-1990)

When competition devoured Perestroika’s children
By Carole Sigman


This article focuses on the effects of the first contested elections on political space in situations of “transition to democracy.” Has competition to be “free and fair”, as transitologists are keen to consider, for it to bring about the collapse of an authoritarian regime? The 1989 and 1990 elections in Russia show that, as soon as competition is introduced, even at a modest scale, the structure of the political game may be thoroughly changed, and the ancien regime’s dignitaries even become the leaders of the democratic opposition. The first political organizations created in the mid-1980s which claimed this status were called the “informal” clubs. They had emerged thanks to Perestroika, which had produced the prerequisites of competition. But this very competition, once it became unbridled in the electoral process, eventually devoured the clubs.


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