Do Authoritarian Elections Help the Poor? Evidence from Russian Cities

53 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2019

See all articles by Quintin Beazer

Quintin Beazer

Florida State University

Ora John Reuter

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

Date Written: May 2019

Abstract

Do local elections under autocracy help the poor? We argue that local appointees in electoral authoritarian regimes have political incentives that undermine public service provision; regime leaders’ preoccupation with national electoral control encourages them to overlook local governance problems if subnational officials can still deliver requisite votes in national elections. Using geographic and temporal variation across Russian cities (2002-2012) in the elimination of mayoral elections, we investigate how mayoral appointments affect the maintenance of aging housing infrastructure. We find that, compared to elected mayors, appointed mayors allow more of their Soviet-era housing stock to become dilapidated and unsafe. Moreover, bad housing increases more in cities where appointees deliver high vote shares to the ruling party in national elections. Thus, while local elections under authoritarianism can improve local governance, the holding of semi-competitive national elections can actually undermine incentives for local appointees to provide public goods.

Suggested Citation

Beazer, Quintin and Reuter, Ora John, Do Authoritarian Elections Help the Poor? Evidence from Russian Cities (May 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3404485 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3404485

Quintin Beazer

Florida State University ( email )

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

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