In This Review

Why Not Parties in Russia? Democracy, Federalism, and the State
Why Not Parties in Russia? Democracy, Federalism, and the State
By Henry E. Hale
Cambridge University Press, 2006, 288 pp

Real democracy depends on a genuinely competitive electoral system, which gives rise to strong political parties -- or so it is assumed. Hale is not so much interested in the reverse syllogism (weak parties imply a noncompetitive electoral process, signifying phony democracy or even authoritarianism) and concentrates instead on another puzzle: How is it that in Russia's fitful transformation in the 1990s, political parties did make headway in the voters' consciousness but failed to become significant factors in elected bodies? Having long studied voters and parties at both the national and the local levels, Hale argues that the explanation lies in the "market" relationship between parties and candidates, with parties supplying the wherewithal (both ideas and resources) to win elections and candidates, the consumers, shopping judiciously. In Russia, the problem is that the parties do not have the market to themselves: regional gubernatorial machines and business monopolies offer easier and cheaper paths to power, the legacy of overweening executive power and clientelistic politics from Soviet times. If the post-Putin succession turns out to be imperfectly controlled, Russian politics could become more contested, but only within these narrow limits.