Referendum of April 1993

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The Referendum of April 1993 was the first and second-to-last referendum in new Russia, if one counts the national vote on the constitution in December 1993. It was held as a result of opposition between President Boris Yeltsin and the Congress of People's Deputies. Yeltsin, who was highly popular at the time, relied on direct mandate, which he received two years earlier in the elections, and the Congress made active efforts at limiting his power, changing the constitution in its favor. Not one of the referendum questions provided for direct action; thus they were only significant as cards in a political game.

There were four referendum questions:

  1. Do you have confidence in Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian Federation? ("yes": 58.7%; "no": 39.3%);
  2. Do you approve of the socioeconomic political policy conducted by the president of the RF (Russian Federation) and by the RF government since 1992? ("yes": 53%; "no": 44.5%);
  3. Do you consider it necessary to hold early elections for the president of the RF? ("yes": 49.5%, or 31.7% of all voters, "no": 47%, or 30.1% of voters);
  4. Do you consider it necessary to hold early elections for RF delegates? ("yes": 67.2%, or 43% of voters; "no": 30.1%, or 19.3% of voters).

With 64 percent participation, all questions but the third (concerning early presidential elections) had a majority of "yes" votes; however, less than half the voters responded to the questions concerning early presidential and RF delegate elections. The last point is significant in that, according to a decision of the Constitutional Court, the third and fourth questions, affecting the Constitution, required a constitutional majority. For this reason the referendum had a purely psychological impact, though a great one at that. It showed that with increasing conflict, neither the executive nor the representative branches of power enjoyed the support of the absolute majority of the population. Despite all the burdens of economic reform, the president and the government he formed still had a significant store of popular confidence. Taking into account Chechnya, where the referendum did not take place, and Tatarstan, where participation was little over 20 percent, voters in 28 out of 89 regions, including 14 national formations, did not express confidence in the president.

Appealing to popular support that he received in the referendum, Yeltsin first accelerated the process of revising of the new, "presidential" constitution, and in the fall he resolved the conflict with the representative branch by means of force. The congress was dismissed, and a vote was scheduled for the new constitution, as well as elections to parliament on the basis of this new constitution.

See also: congress of people's deputies; constitution of 1993; october 1993 events; yeltsin, boris nikolayevich


McFaul, Michael. (2001). Russia's Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

McFaul, Michael, and Markov, Sergei. (1993). The Troubled Birth of Russian Democracy: Parties, Personalities, and Programs. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press.

Reddaway, Peter, and Glinski, Dmitri. (2001). The Tragedy of Russia's Reforms: Market Bolshevism against Democracy. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press.

White, Stephen; Rose, Richard; and McAllister, Ian. (1997). How Russia Votes. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.

Nikolai Petrov