The Russian presidency is of recent origin, although there was always a prime minister, or (in the Soviet period) a chairman of the Council of Ministers. The prime minister and his colleagues were elected by the Soviet parliament, the USSR Supreme Soviet, and in addition, there was a collective presidency or Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, with the chairman of that body carrying out the functions of head of state—although there was still no presidency as such. Neither the chairman of the Presidium nor the prime minister was accountable in any meaningful way to the parliament, or (still more so) a mass electorate; rather, decisions on matters of this kind were taken by the party leadership and routinely ratified. All this began to change in the late Soviet period: a presidency was approved with some haste in March 1990, and Gorbachev was elected as its first incumbent with the support of 71% of the Congress of People's Deputies who voted (there was no popular vote). The next president was Yeltsin, who had been elected chairman of the Russian parliament in May 1990, and in June 1991 was elected Russia's first‐ever president in a direct popular election against five other candidates. The presidency, as it was established by this time, was normally an elective office, and it was a position of executive authority, but its powers extended under Yeltsin. The four sections of this chapter look at the experience of the Russian presidency under the following headings: The Context of Semi‐Presidentialism in Russia; Constitutional Powers; Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Parliaments; and Yeltsin and the Russian Semi‐Presidency.
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