How the Duma electoral system works

Initially the Duma term was four years. Constitutional amendments passed in December 2008 mean that it is extended to five years to take effect after the 2011 Duma election. Calling the next election is the responsibility of the president.

The 450 seats in the Duma are assigned exclusively from party lists under a law adopted in 2005 on the initiative of President Putin. He claimed it would strengthen the party system by reducing the number of parties in the Duma (cf. public opinion on reform). The chief features of the law are:

  • All seats are awarded by proportional representation. The threshold for eligibility to win seats is 7.0 percent. In 2007, three parties represented in the previous Duma passed this threshold--United Russia, the Communist Party and the Liberal Democrats, as did Fair Russia, largely based on Motherland in the former Duma. Together, these four parties won around 90 percent of the vote. At the initiative of President Medvedev, in spring 2009 the Duma passed an amendment which would allocate one seat to parties winning between five and six percent of the vote, and two seats to parties winning between six and seven percent. This allocation would occur before distributing seats to parties passing the seven percent threshold. There were no parties winning between 5% and 7% in 2007.
  • Only officially registered parties may compete, and registered parties cannot form a bloc in order to improve their chances of clearing the 7.0 percent threshold. There were 11 parties contesting in 2007 and there are 7 parties contesting in 2011. The current list of registered parties is updated periodically by the Central Electoral Commission.
  • Election manifestoes for each of these parties may be found at (in Russian), and were also published in Russian press.
  • A presidential decree of 30 August 2011 specified that polling day for the coming Duma elections would be Sunday 4 December 2011.
  • Duma seats are allocated to individuals on the lists of successful parties in accordance with their ranking within them. Any members who change their party automatically forfeit their seats.
  • The 225 single-member districts are abolished. In 2003 100 of these seats were won by independents or minor party candidates.

*The 2007 election results were a landslide victory for Putin's United Russia party. In addition, three other parties passed the threshold to gain Duma seats, improving their position as a result of the abolition of single-member districts.

Duma election results: 1993-2007.

Further details of election law.