1991 Russian presidential election

1991 Russian presidential election

12 June 19911996 →
 Boris YeltsinNikolai Ryzhkov
NomineeBoris YeltsinNikolai Ryzhkov
Running mateAlexander RutskoyBoris Gromov
Popular vote45,552,04113,359,335

 Vladimir ZhirinovskyAman Tuleyev
NomineeVladimir ZhirinovskyAman Tuleyev
Running mateAndrey ZavidiyaViktor Bocharov
Popular vote6,211,0075,417,464

1991 Russian presidential election map by federal subjects.svg
Winner by federal subject.
  Boris Yeltsin
  Nikolai Ryzhkov
  Aman Tuleyev

Elected President

Boris Yeltsin

Voter invitation card for the election

The 1991 Russian presidential election was held in the Russian SFSR on 12 June 1991.[1] This was the first presidential election in the country's history. The election was held roughly three months after Russians voted in favor of establishing a presidency and holding direct elections in a referendum held in March that year. The result was a victory for Boris Yeltsin, who received 58.6% of the vote.[2]


In the election of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation's lower chamber members in the 1990 legislative election anti-communist candidates won nearly two-thirds of the seats.[3]

On 31 May 1990 Boris Yeltsin was elected Chair of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation in a vote by the body's members. This made him the de facto leader of the Russian SFSR.[4] The vote had been relatively close, as Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev had unsuccessfully tried to convince enough members of the Supreme Soviet to vote against Yeltsin.[4]

Yelstin made an active effort to push for the creation of an office of president and for a popular election to be held to fill it.[4] Many saw this as a desire by Yelstin to have a mandate and power separate from the tensely divided legislature.[5] He ultimately succeeded in having Russia hold a referendum on 14 March 1991 on whether Russia should create offices of President and Vice President and hold elections to fill them.[6] Russians voted in favor of creating and holding elections to these offices.[6]

Following the referendum, there was a period of more than a week in which a stalemate had caused the Congress of People's Deputies to go without deciding whether or not to vote on whether the Russian Federation should have a directly-elected president.[7][8] On 4 April the Congress of People's Deputies ordered the creation of legislation to authorize the election.[9] While still failing to set an official date for the election, the Congress of People's Deputies provisionally scheduled the election for 12 June.[10] This provisional date would later become the official date of the election.

Ultimately, the Congress of People's Deputies would approve for an election to be held, scheduling its initial round of voting to be held roughly three months after the referendum had been decided.[6] The election would jointly elect individuals to serve five-year terms as President and Vice President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.[11][6][4]

Several sub-national elections were scheduled to coincide with the first round of the presidential election. This included mayoral elections in Moscow and Leningrad,[12][13][14] and executive elections in federal subjects such as Tatarstan.[15][16] There were also sub-national referendums scheduled to coincide with the presidential election. These included a number of referendums in which cities were determining whether or not residents wanted to revert to their historic city names, such as in Sverdlovsk (historically Yekaterinburg) and Leningrad (historically Saint Petersburg).[17][13][14][16][18]

Electoral system

In difference from subsequent Russian presidential elections, a vice presidential candidate stood for election alongside with the presidential candidate. Similarly to the US presidential election system, the candidature of Vice President was exhibited along with the candidacy of the President as a joint entry on the ballot paper.

Preliminary legislation outlining the rules of the election was passed on 24 April by the Supreme Soviet of Russia.[19] However, it ultimately took the Supreme Soviet until three weeks before the day of the election to finalize the rules that would govern the election.[20][21]

Any citizen of the RSFSR between the ages of 35 and 65 were eligible to be elected president.[19] Any citizen of the RSFSR over the age of 18 was eligible to vote.[19] 50% turnout was required in order to validate the election.[19] The winner would need to have captured 50% of the votes cast.[22][23] The president would be elected to a 5-year term, and could serve a maximum of two terms.[19]

Originally, the election law stipulated that, once sworn-in, the president would be required to renounce their membership of any political parties. However, on 23 May, the parliament voted to remove this requirement.[24]

All candidates needed to be nominated before they could achieve ballot registration. Candidates could be nominated by RSFSR political parties, trade unions, and public organizations.[19] There were two ways for candidates to achieve ballot registration. The first was by providing proof of the having the support of 100,000 voters (a signature drive).[19][25] The second way for candidates to obtain registration is if they received the support of 25% of the members of the Congress of People's Deputies (which would vote on whether or not to add such candidates to the ballot).[19][25][21]

On 6 May it was announced that the deadline for nominations would be 18 May.[25] This was also the deadline for nominating a vice-presidential running mate.[25]

Candidates were provided 200,000 rubles in public financing for their campaigns.[26]

In May 1991 there were some calls to postpone the election, rescheduling it for September. Those urging the postponement of the elections argued that the time before the scheduled 12 June election day provided too brief of a period for nominating candidates and campaigning. In response to these calls, election commission chairman Vasilii Kazakov argued that that the law stipulated that the election would be held on 12 June and that the proposed postponement of the election would only serve to "keep Russia seething" for another three months.[25][22]

In mid-May election commission chairman Vasilii Kazakov announced that the election would be budgeted at 155 million rubles.[25][27]

The results of the first round were to be counted and announced by a 22 June deadline.[26]

It had ultimately been determined that, if needed, a runoff would be scheduled to be held within two weeks after the first round.[28]

Presidential authority

Due to the rushed circumstances behind the creation of the office and organization the election, many aspects of the office of President were not clear.[4] Sufficient legislative debates were not held to outline the scope of presidential powers.[4] It was unclear, for example, whether the President or the Congress of People's Deputies would hold ultimate legislative authority.[4]

One of the few stipulations that was made was that a two-thirds vote in the Congress of People's Deputies had the power (only if such a vote were recommended by the newly-created constitutional court) to remove the president if they violated the constitution, laws, or oath of office.[4]

Work on drafting a law to outline the presidency itself began on 24 April, with approximately two months until the inaugural holder was set to occupy the office.[19] Under the initial draft the president was the chief executive in the RSFSR, but did not have the right to dismiss the Supreme Soviet or the Congress of People's Deputies or suspend their activities. The President could not be a people's deputy and, once elected, would have needed to suspend their membership in all political parties.[19]

On 25 May the newly-founded conservatives group in the Congress of People's Deputies blocked legislation championed by Yeltsin that would have explicitly allowed the president to remove local executives from office if the RSFSR Constitutional Court found them guilty of violating Russian Federation laws.[12]

The Supreme Soviet committee that had been tasked with redrafting the Russian Constitution deadlocked over the powers of the presidency. Attempts to reach a single resolution would continue after the election.[20] By November, the committee would give up on reaching a single resolution, and opted to instead present two different drafts, one created by Yeltsin allies and one created by Yeltsin opponents. Neither of these would be approved.[20]

The failure to resolve these matters would ultimately lead to the later eruption of the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis.[4]