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Section 1
Political Processes and Macroeconomics in1996

Introduction

There exists a peculiarity of thepost-communist evolution in general, and in Russia in particular: this is thestrong dependence of the economic processes upon the political ones. Anaturalindicator of this dependence is the modification of the basic macro-economicindexes (first of all, inflation, dynamics of production volumes, budgetdeficit, etc.) resulting from the political situation. Moreover, in contrast tothe countries with the stable market economy, where the political changes leadto the changes of the economic parameters by percents or their shares, thechoice (or the change of its probability) of one of the economical andpolitical alternatives existing in the today’s Russia may lead to the change ofthe macro-economic indexes by times.

Under such conditions, the 1996 Presidentialelections formed a key factor for not only the political, but also for theeconomic life of Russia. Indeed, one of the two variants of thenation’s evolution wasto be chosen, and the necessity to choose was fully perceived by the politicalelite, the economy agents, and the voters themselves. Furthermore, thesituation itself influenced the behavior of the economic agents, thuspredetermining the main problems of the economic policy of 1996-97.

The correlation between the economic policyand elections was analyzed in sufficient detail in the Western economicliterature beginning from the mid‑70’s; theespecially deep analysis belongs to the last two decades. The two contrastingapproaches to the contemplation of the relevant problems have formed. The firstone is based on the hypothesis that any politician (government, ruling party)is inclined to use, notwithstanding the doctrines or ideological preferences,the elements of the economic populism during the period immediately precedingthe elections, i.e., activate the production growth and reduce the unemploymentby a more indulgent monetary policy and incitement of the inflation1. The otherapproach shows the two types of cycles depending on the ideological preferencesof the party at power: the left-oriented forces are more inclined to stimulateof the aggregate demand, and, hence, the inflationism, while the right-orientedones are, rather, inclined to the macro-economic stability2. As thedemocratic processes and procedures are developing in Russia, and the cleardependence of the economic life upon the political one shows itself, thenatural issue arises: whether such models are usable to explain the causalrelations and, in a more general manner, whether any stable relations evenexist.

Of course, when speaking of Russia, one canonly come to a very approximate analysis. The 1996 Presidential elections were,in essence, the first to any extent politically significant ones. In 1991, theelections were for the President of a republic forming a part of the USSR,without real economic or political sovereignty. The Parliamentary elections of1993 and 1995 could not, either, be considered significant for the economiclife, due to the very limited possibilities for the legislators to influencethe formation and implementation of the economy course.

Nevertheless, the influence of the electionsto the State Duma on the Russian economic policy shows a certain interest foran analysis. Our previous researches have shown the presence of a distortedpolitical and business cycle as applied to the correlation between theParliamentary elections and the Government course3. As for the experience of1993-95, a stricter macro-economic (first of all, financial and monetary)policy was characteristic before the elections, while the populist trend in theGovernment’s activitybecame stronger immediately after them. Thus, in autumn 1993 and during thewhole year 1995, the executive power was taking, more or less consecutively, awhole set of measures of orthodox stabilization; this reduced the popularity ofthe Government and reflected itself on the results of the Parliamentaryelections. On the contrary, in 1994, after the defeat of the reformers at theelections, the Government tried to follow the way of the non-monetary methodsof struggle against inflation. This resulted, the same autumn, in anaggravation of the economic crisis and forced the Government to return to theorthodox stabilization measures for the pre-election period.

The exclusive role the Russian Constitutiongives to the President, including the practically unlimited possibilities inselection of the economic course and formation of the Government, as well asthe fact itself of existence of the realistic political and economicalternatives predetermined the dependence of all the aspects of the 1966economic life on the June elections. Moreover, this influence turned out morecomplex than one could suppose and showed itself much longer than the first sixmonths of the year forming the pre-election period itself.

First of all, from the very beginning, theissue of the pre-election economic course surged, or rather the issue of theeffect of the electoral struggle on the policy of the Federal power. The secondissue, not less important, was the one of the expected changes of the policyafter the Presidential elections. Thirdly, the economic decisions dictated bythe election reflections effected the economic evolution for the period afterthe elections. At last, fourthly, the illness of Boris Yeltsin immediatelyafter the elections extended the actual election period, in what concerns boththe inconsistent character of the economic policy of the Government and thepossibility of the new, before term, Presidential elections. In other words,the Presidential elections became a most important factor of the Russianeconomic life and policy for the whole year 1996. This influence continues in1997, as well.

1.1. Political Incertitude andEconomy

The incertitude is the most characteristicfeature and, at the same time, the most general problem of the economical andpolitical life of the electoral period. Moreover, the incertitude as asocio-economic factor of the 1996 evolution in Russia differs significantlyfrom the common electoral incertitude characteristic for the marketdemocracies. This is due to the insufficient experience of participation in theelections, and, hence, forecast of their results, as well as with the absenceof the confidence, so characteristic for the today’s western societies, in thesolidity of the democratic process; all these allow to think about any currentelections as about episodes in the political life of a country. The feelingthat the 1996 elections could become the last free elections in the foreseeablefuture was an important factor forming the economic behavior inRussia.

However, within the framework of ouranalysis, the problem of the pre-election incertitude is narrower. We speak ofthe pre-election incertitude effecting the economic policy of the Government,for the one hand, and the behavior of the economic agents, for the other hand.From the viewpoints of the both sides (Government and economic agents) of theeconomic and political process, the pre-election incertitude showed itself inat least three aspects.

First of all, it was the incertitude itself.It is important that the standard criteria based on the runners ratings did notfavor the clarity of the situation in the Russian electoral campaign at all.From the very beginning the only thing was clear that the elections would be,most probably, bipolar (without accounting for the ambiguous position ofAleksandr Lebed) and that the main struggle would be between B.Yeltsin andGuennadiZiuganov. Formally, the development went on from January whenZiuganov’s popularitywas much higher than the Yeltsin’s one to May when the ratings of the both runners becamepractically equal (see Table1.1).

However, the situation was significantlycomplicated by the answers to the question characteristic for the politicallife of the today’sRussia: in the same polls where most Russians preferred Ziuganov, a significantshare of the voters (approximately equal to the CPRF’s electorate) was sure that, in anyevent, the acting President would safeguard his power4. To the above,the rumors not stopping up to the end of June (i.e., even after the firstround) on a possible coup d’etat, with the consequences vague for Boris Yeltsin himself and forhis economic policy. This aggravated the incertitude, both as for the electionsresults and for the economic policy which could have been carried on by thenon-legitimate regime at power.

Table 1.1.

Results of answer to thequestion:
If Yeltsin and Ziuganov get to thesecond round of the elections, for which would you vote, (% of polled)

Terms offield

Yeltsin

Ziuganov

Againstboth

Undeterminedyet

19 - 22.01.

17.7%

33.3%

21.7%

27.3%

16 - 19.02

20.9%

33.5%

21.5%

24.1%

7 - 11.03

24.4%

32.3%

21.3%

22.0%

22 - 25.03

28.9%

30.0%

16.7%

24.4%

5 - 8.04

28.4%

29.3%

17.6%

24.7%

19 - 22.04

31.1%

28.7%

17.0%

23.2%

1 - 5.05

36.9%

30.8%

14.6%

17.7%

17 - 20.05

39.7%

29.2%

12.3%

18.8%

31.5 - 3.06

43.0%

28.3%

11.4%

17.2%

7 - 10.06

44.6%

30.3%

10.7%

14.3%

18 - 20.06

46.0%

29.5%

5.1%

19.4%

21 - 24.06

45.9%

25.5%

5.9%

22.7%

25 - 27.06

44.6%

26.9%

6.3%

22.1%

28 -30.06

45.0%

29.8%

6.3%

18.9%

Source: Presidential Elections of 1996 andPublic Opinion, Moscow, VCIOM, 1996. pp. 109, 113.

Secondly, the outlooks for the post-electionseconomic policy seemed vague, as well. Of course, in general, one could supposethe safeguard of the existing course in the event of the B.Yeltsin’s victory or the transition to theleft nationalist model (combination of strict protectionism with attempts tostimulate the demand by the money printing) in the event of theG.Ziuganov’svictory.5. But the refusal, up to the end of May, of the both runners topublish their economic programs, the ambiguity of the declarations of the lefteconomic advisors combined with the extreme medley of the actingPresident’s team gaveno clearness as for the outlooks for the economic course.

Thirdly (especially in the first quarter of1996) the problem of the character of the B.Yeltsin’s pre-election economic policystayed unsolved. Furthermore, this incertitude related to not only the economicagents, but the Members of Cabinet, as well, because everything depended,finally, on the choice of the Head of the State. The political heterogeneity ofthe executive structures, the coexistence therein of the adherents to not onlydifferent, but opposite political and economic doctrines, the contradictorydeclarations of B.Yeltsin himself at the beginning of the year, theaggravation of the struggle between his nearest supporters, capable to bring inthe most unexpected results, including the dismissal of the Prime Minister justbefore the elections‑all these increased significantly the incertitude of the courseand put the Government in an ambiguous position.

The situation of the economic and politicalincertitude influenced both the behavior of the economic agents and the policyof the Government. The issues of this strategic interaction are discussed withmore detail below.

1.2. Parliamentary Elections of 1995 andFinancial Stabilization

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