Suffrage for the Duma was universal but indirect. Voters chose an electoral college, which then selected the 412 deputies. Although SRs and SDs boycotted the elections, many of them were elected.
The Kadets were the strongest party. Contrary to the expectations of the government, the peasant vote was highly liberal. But even before the First Duma had met, Witte was able to reduce its powers. He secured a large French loan, which made the government financially independent of the Duma, and issued a set of “fundamental laws,” which the Duma was not to alter.