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How the Duma electoral system works

Initially the Duma term was four years (except for the very first Duma
elected in 2003, which was mandated to be a transitional two years).
Constitutional amendments passed at the end of 2008 mean that the Duma's
term has been extended to five years, to take effect after the next Duma
election. Calling the next election is the responsibility of the president, but
the term will expire in December 2011 and elections must be held by that
time.

The 450 seats in the Duma are – as of the 2007 election – 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. The chief features of the law are:

• All seats are awarded by proportional representation (PR). The


threshold for eligibility to win seats is 7.0 percent. In 2007, three parties
represented in the previous Duma passed this threshold: (1) United
Russia, (2) the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and (3) the
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, as did a new fourth party, (4) Just
Russia (sometimes rendered as "Fair Russia"), which is largely based on
Motherland ("Rodina") 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 another amendment which
would allocate in future Duma elections 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 such 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. For 2007, eleven parties made the ballot and contested
the election; 4 passed the threshold, 7 did not. Voters cast a vote for a
party, not for a person.

• Duma seats are allocated to individuals on the lists of successful


parties in accordance with their ranking there. Any members who change
their party automatically forfeit their seats, thus indicating that in this type
of election system the seats belong to the party, not the person.

• For the 1993, 1995, 1999, and 2003 elections, the 450 seats in the
State Duma were allocated via two mechanisms: 225 seats via single-
member districts based on a plurality vote (SMDP) and 225 seats via a
party list proportional (PR) ballot with a 5 percent threshold. In those
elections, many of the single-member district races were won by non-
party independent candidates. For the 2007 election, the 225 single-
member districts were abolished, so non-party independent candidates
may no longer win seats in the Duma.