Navalny's Gamesters: Protest, Opposition Innovation, and Authoritarian Stability in Russia

Published in Russian Politics 1 (2016) 347-371

20 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2017

See all articles by Regina Smyth

Regina Smyth

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Political Science

Irina V. Soboleva

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: December 30, 2016

Abstract

This paper explores the legacy of the For Fair Elections (FFE) protest movement in 2011–2012 for electoral competition in Russia. We argue that through strategic innovation, oppositions in authoritarian countries can challenge the autocratic state on multiple fronts by transferring resources from street protests to the electoral arena. Our empirical focus is on Alexei Navalny’s campaign for Moscow mayor in late summer 2013. The successful mass mobilization in the movement enabled the campaign to implement a model of electoral innovation based on ideational frames, resources, and tactics drawn from the protest movement. Voter response was stronger than expected, demonstrating the persistence of voter opposition in the face of genuine electoral choice. Relying on press reports, blogs, campaign materials and interviews with activists, we investigate the campaign’s strategy and show why it presented a particular challenge to the regime. Our conclusion underscores the state’s advantage in countering elite opposition innovation, but also highlights how effective opposition innovation can lead to significant changes in strategies to maintain regime stability.

Keywords: elections, Russia, opposition, protest, electoral authoritarianism

Suggested Citation

Smyth, Regina and Soboleva, Irina V., Navalny's Gamesters: Protest, Opposition Innovation, and Authoritarian Stability in Russia (December 30, 2016). Published in Russian Politics 1 (2016) 347-371. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2983994

Regina Smyth (Contact Author)

Indiana University Bloomington - Department of Political Science ( email )

Bloomington, IN
United States

Irina V. Soboleva

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

MC3320
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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