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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Elections, political participation, and authoritarian responsiveness in Russia Gorokhovskaia, Yana


For decades, elections were thought of as the necessary but not sufficient condition for democracy. After the end of the Cold War, however, the world witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of regimes that combined the democratic institution of elections with authoritarian practices. Despite the presence of regular and free multi-party elections, these regimes did not liberalize or democratize. However, elections continued to matter and sporadically elections became focal points for social dissent and protest. In a series of three papers, this dissertation examines elections in Russia. The first paper presents an in-depth analysis of the 2013 Moscow mayoral election. I make the argument that in order to secure the legitimacy that elections can bestow, the authorities in this case promoted electoral competition by helping all the candidates for mayor surmount a high procedural barrier to participation. This paper contributes to scholarship on the manipulation of elections which has previously only considered measures that restrict electoral competition. Elections where authorities promote competition are still unlikely to result in opposition victories but may dampen voter participation. The second paper uses Albert Hirschman’s Exit, Voice and Loyalty framework and evidence from twenty-nine semi-structured interviews to analyze political participation in an authoritarian state through the experience of individuals running for local political office in Moscow’s municipalities. I find that citizens without substantial previous political experience, but galvanized by anti-fraud protests, ran successful political campaigns with help from civil society organizations and political parties. Counterintuitively, once in office, they adopted hyper-legal strategies to combat corruption and waste. The third and final paper uses regression analysis to test two explanatory models for electoral competition under authoritarianism: voter preferences and regime manipulation. Relying on an original dataset of protests across Russia’s regions, I find partial support for both models. Previous protest activity both increases electoral competition and provokes more pre-election manipulation of the field of candidates. In addition, voter mobilization in support of regime candidates is especially effective in generating pro-regime results. Replacing long-sitting but economically predatory governors before the election can dampen the impact of voter disapproval again boosting pro-incumbent results.

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