Primary elections in Russia and in foreign countries: features of constitutional law regulation

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Author: Andrey Vershinin

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2019-2-33-50

Keywords: electoral legislation; internal party elections; party systems; political parties; primaries; внутрипартийная демократия


This article reviews a comparative analysis of approaches to the legal regulation of primary elections (primaries) in the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, France, Israel, and Russia. Even though in the United States parties began to hold primaries in the middle of the 19th century, Russian parties drew attention to this institution only in the early 2010s. The author concludes that primaries could have a positive impact on the development of the party system in the Russia. However, for a competent implementation of this institution in the Russian legal system, it is necessary to examine and compare different existing models of the legal regulation of primaries. The author identifies three models for regulating primaries: regulation of primaries by state authorities, regulation of primaries based on internal local acts, and a mixed model combining both legislative (general principles) and more detailed intraparty regulation. This article also considers the issue of judicial protection of the rights of candidates and electors during primaries. If in the United States an extensive judicial practice of protecting the rights of voters had been developed, Russian courts refuse to consider complaints of violations in the course of preliminary intraparty voting. Separately, this article considers decisions of the United States Supreme Court on “Texas Processes” to appeal against the practice of “white-only primaries” and the verification of state law for compliance with the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The article will also consider the question of what risks exist in the obligation of parties to hold primaries. Considering the experience of foreign countries, the author points out those features that should characterize inner-party elections in Russia. Political parties in Russia cannot be considered to be strong and independent institutions. So, the establishment of mandatory primaries can cause the party system to regress. Law that may regulate primary elections in Russia should concentrate only on the basic principles of this institution. Political parties must be guaranteed the right to decide to hold primaries or not. Voters and candidates should have the right to appeal any violation of their rights both in a party’s arbitration body and in the state judicial system. Primaries can be a part of the procedure for nominating candidates by political parties.

About the author: Andrey Vershinin – Ph.D. student, Faculty of law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Vershinin A. (2019) Institut pervichnykh vnutripartiynykh vyborov v Rossii i v zarubezhnykh stranakh: osobennosti konstitutsionno-pravovogo regulirovaniya [Primary elections in Russia and in foreign countries: features of constitutional law regulation]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 33–50. (In Russian).


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