ON Dec. 12, potentially 107 million Russian voters will cast four separate ballots. Their votes will determine the composition of a new, two-chamber Federal Assembly, or parliament, and the approval of a new constitution for the Russian Federation. Here is what each of the four votes will mean: Federation Council
This is the upper house of the parliament, consisting of 178 seats, two for each of the Russian Federation's 89 regions and ethnic republics. Only 172 seats are being contested because of the refusal of the rebel republic of Chechnya to participate in the election and the failure of the republic of Tatarstan and the region of Chelyabinsk to put forward more than the required minimum of three candidates.
Voters in each region or republic will vote for two persons out of the list of candidates. The top two vote-getters overall will be elected. Voters may also mark a box reading ``Against All Candidates,'' and no candidate can be elected if this vote exceeds his or her tally.
According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), 483 candidates met the requirement to gather signatures of at least 1 percent of their electorate. More than 40 percent of the candidates are from the existing government administration, while some 13 percent are former deputies in the disbanded Russian parliament. About 16 percent are businessmen. State Duma, single-seat districts
Half of the 450 seats in the lower house of the parliament will be elected from single-seat districts with an average electorate of about 500,000. Two seats, in Chechnya and Tatarstan, will not be contested because of a lack of candidates. The candidate with the most votes, even a plurality, wins.
There are 1,566 registered candidates who met the requirement of collecting 5,000 signatures or were nominated by registered parties. According to CEC figures, 22 percent are from the administration, 20 percent are businessmen, 8 percent are directors of state-owned enterprises, and 10 percent are college professors. State Duma, party-list seats
The other half of the State Duma, 225 seats, will be allocated proportionally on the basis of votes for 13 national parties. The 13 met the requirement of gathering 100,000 signatures in at least seven regions or republics. Party seats will be given to those parties that win more than 5 percent of the national vote. Those that pass the barrier will divide the 225 seats in proportion to the number of votes each wins.
The parties are listed on the ballot paper in alphabetical order with the names of the top three candidates. A 5 percent vote will mean the first 14 candidates on the list will get seats. Constitution
Voters will decide whether to adopt, by national vote, a new draft constitution proposed by President Boris Yeltsin. Under the referendum law, passage would require approval of 50 percent of the electorate, but this has been designated a ``national vote,'' which requires only a majority turnout of at least 50 percent of the electorate. The ballot asks voters to mark a ``yes'' or ``no'' response to the question: ``Do you approve of the Russian constitution?''
In a legal conundrum, the new parliament exists only under the new constitution. Failure to pass the constitution, therefore, could call into question the legality of the new parliament.