Friday, 1 July 2022 – 14:51
Moscow, Russia

Explaining Politics in Russia

Russia is a country located in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia with a population of around 146 million people.

Russia, or officially, the Russian Federation was founded in 1991 and its current constitution has been effective since 1993. This guide mainly looks at how Russian politics works today, but you can find out about some of Russia’s long history in the History tab below.

The country has been repeatedly classified as a potential superpower and is a major power both regionally and on the global stage. Russia is also one of the five countries recognised as nuclear weapon states.

Click through the tabs below to learn more about how politics works in Russia.

{tab What are the different parts of the Russian political system?}

Russia is a multi-party representative democracy with three different branches including the Legislature (the law-making body), the Executive (the branch that executes laws and runs the administration of the country) and the Judiciary (the branch responsible for interpreting laws and administrating justice).

The Legislature

The law-making body of the Russian Federation is the Federal Assembly of Russia. Like the Houses of Parliament in the UK (which has the House of Commons and the House of Lords), the Assembly has two houses. The two houses of the Assembly are the State Duma and the Federation Council.

The Federal Assembly of Russia has a variety of powers, including to adopt laws, declare wars and impeach (remove from sitting) the President.

Click the tab above to learn more about the Federal Assembly.

The Executive

Under the Russian constitution, the President is the head of state and is elected by the Russian public who vote in a Presidential Election, currently every 6 years. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s armed forces and can veto (block from passing) legislative bills before they can become law. The President also appoints the Government (rather than it being elected), including the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and other officials. The President’s office residence is in the Kremlin in Moscow.

The Prime Minister is the head of the government, which is responsible for enforcing and administrating laws and policies. The Prime Minister’s official workplace is the House of the Government of the Russian Federation in Moscow – also known as the Russian White House.

The Judiciary

Members of the judiciary are responsible for interpreting laws and delivering justice. They can also overturn laws that they deem to break the rules set out in the Constitution.

Russia has lower federal courts, a Constitutional Court which is the high court and the Supreme Court which is the court of last resort within Russia. Judges are appointed by a body called the Federation Council but they are usually recommended by the President.

{tab How does the Federal Assembly work?}

The Federal Assembly has two houses – the State Duma (the lower house) and the Federation Council (the upper house), both of which are located in Moscow.

 

The State Duma

The State Duma has 450 seats and the largest party is currently United Russia.  Members of the State Duma are usually elected to their positions every five years and members are known as ‘deputies’.

Any Russian citizen who is aged 21 years or older can usually stand in an election of the State Duma. 225 deputies are elected through the First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system, whereby the candidate with the highest number of votes is elected. The other 225 deputies are elected through a system of Proportional Representation.

The State Duma has a Speaker, known as the Chairman of the State Duma. The house has special powers given to it under the constitution, including allowing it to consent to the appointment of the Prime Minister, hear annual reports from the Government on its work and it also has the power to vote on impeaching the President.

The Federation Council

The Federation Council is the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Russia and has 170 members known as Senators. Senators are able to remain part of parties when joining the Council, but are asked to not take party factionalism into its sitting.

The Chairman of the Council is elected among the members of the Council and there are also four deputy chairmen and a general secretary. Members of the Council are not directly elected, but rather chosen by politicians from each territorial areas.

Members of the Council can be immune from arrest, detainment and searches.

{tab Who is the current President and the current Prime Minister?}

Vladimir Putin

The current President of Russia is Vladimir Putin. Mr Putin has been both the President and the Prime Minister of Russia on multiple occasions.

  • In August 1999, Putin became the Prime Minister of Russia – a role he held until May 2000.
  • In December 1999, Putin became the President of Russia – a role he held until May 2008.
  • In May 2008, Putin become Prime Minister again, a role he held until May 2012.
  • In May 2012, Putin became President again, and has remained in office since.

Putin started out as a law student, graduating in 1975. He then went on to work as a Foreign Intelligence Officer for the KGB (the secret police force for the former Soviet Union). He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before then pursuing a career in politics.

Mikhail Mishustin

The current Prime Minister of Russia is Mikhail Mishustin. Mr Mishustin was nominated to become the Prime Minister on 15 January 2020, following the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev along with the rest of the Government on the same day. Mr Mishustin entered office as Prime Minister of Russia the following day on 16 January 2020 after confirmation by the State Duma.

Before becoming Prime Minister, Mishustin was the head of Russia’s Federal Tax Service between 2010 and 2020, during which time he emphasized the simplification of taxes and the use of electronic tax services.

Appointed in January 2020, most of Mishustin’s time as Prime Minister has been spent responding to the Coronavirus pandemic. In February, Mishustin started to travel around Russia to assess the living conditions in different regions to try and identify areas where improvements are needed.

{tab Political Issues & International Relations}

Despite Russia’s political system having some democratic aspects, some experts do not consider the country to be democratic. In the past, there have been claims of Russia jailing political opponents and interfering in elections.

Russian politics has been largely dominated by Vladimir Putin over the last two years with him serving as both Prime Minister and President in that time.

Russian relations with Western countries have been poor in recent times. In 2018, the UK and some of its allies accused Russia of being behind a Novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury on an ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Russia denied involvement in the attack and relations have been largely sour since. In 2019, Putin called for improved relations between the UK and Russia, but there have since been new allegations of reports of Russian interference in UK elections and referendums.

{/tabs}

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