Presidentialism and other institutional factors have been major influences on the development of Russia's party system. Why and how they have influenced party development has changed over time. This article looks at these changes and explains them as a response to the evolving neo-patrimonial system in Russia. Rules establishing electoral institutions have been particularly important and have been changed according to the needs of regime stability. Russian party development has flowed and ebbed as a result, particularly as electoral rules have changed. One function of parties under Yeltsin was as vehicles that signalled which interests had to be negotiated with by Yeltsin or incorporated into the regime. Under Putin, and as rules have changed, this function ended, and United Russia as the paramount party became a vehicle for controlling interests instead. The article ends with some speculation about the sustainability of this pattern of political development. © 2012 Taylor & Francis.