Local Elections in Authoritarian Regimes: An Elite-Based Theory with Evidence from Russian Mayoral Elections

45 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2015 Last revised: 18 Dec 2015

See all articles by Ora John Reuter

Ora John Reuter

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee - Department of Political Science; National Research University Higher School of Economics

Noah Buckley

Columbia University - Department of Political Science; National Research University Higher School of Economics

Alexandra Shubenkova

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Guzel Garifullina

National Research University Higher School of Economics

Date Written: August 13, 2015

Abstract

Why do authoritarian regimes permit elections in some settings but not in others? Focusing on the decision to hold subnational elections, we argue that autocrats use local elections to assuage powerful subnational elites. When subnational elites control significant political resources, such as local political machines, leaders may need to co-opt them in order to govern cost-effectively. Elections are an effective tool of co-optation because they provide elites with autonomy and the opportunity to cultivate their own power bases. We test this argument by analyzing variation in the decision to hold mayoral elections in Russia’s 207 largest cities between 2000 and 2012. Our findings suggest that Russian mayoral elections were more likely to be retained in cities where elected mayors sat atop strong political machines. Our findings also illustrate how subnational elections may actually serve to perpetuate authoritarianism by helping to ensure elite loyalty and putting the resources of powerful elites to work for the regime.

Suggested Citation

Reuter, Ora John and Buckley, Noah and Shubenkova, Alexandra and Garifullina, Guzel, Local Elections in Authoritarian Regimes: An Elite-Based Theory with Evidence from Russian Mayoral Elections (August 13, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2643773 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2643773

Ora John Reuter (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee - Department of Political Science ( email )

PO Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53211
United States

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

Noah Buckley

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

Alexandra Shubenkova

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

Guzel Garifullina

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

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