Academic Publications

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Coordinated Voting against the Autocracy: The Case of the ‘Smart Vote’ Strategy in Russia [with Grigorii V. Golosov]. Europe-Asia Studies 75, 5 (2023): 820–841.

Is coordinated anti-regime voting of opposition-minded citizens possible in an authoritarian setting where the opposition does not coalesce against the regime? If so, what are the factors behind the citizens’ (un)willingness to vote strategically for the opposition? This study investigates the ‘smart vote’ (umnoe golosovanie) strategy of Aleksei Naval’nyi in the 2020 subnational elections in Russia and shows that it boosted candidates’ electoral results countrywide. The article also finds that the willingness of anti-regime voters to behave strategically depends on the candidates’ opposition credentials, and that it can be affected by the scope of voter intimidation available to the authorities.

Electoral Success of Independents under Authoritarianism: Evidence from Russia’s Local Elections [with Tatiana Tkacheva]. Problems of Post-Communism 69, no. 3 (2022): 270–281.

How are candidates without official party affiliation able to succeed in authoritarian elections? We analyzed 1,101 independents who took part in city council elections in Russia’s regional capitals between 2014 and 2018. We found that independent candidates’ electoral fortunes depended both on their personal resources enabling them to attract voters’ support and pre-electoral deals with the regime. We also discovered that the chances of being elected were higher for those formally independent candidates who were the regime’s hidden representatives. For the latter group, the chances to win the race were boosted mostly by pre-electoral deals, rather than their personal resources.

Countering the ‘Sweep Effect’: Opposition Voter Coordination versus Electoral System Effects in Authoritarian Local Elections [with Grigorii V. Golosov]. Communist and Post-Communist Studies 54, no. 1–2 (2021): 66–82.

One of the well-known properties of multimember plurality systems is their propensity toward producing the so-called “sweep effect,” manifesting itself in that the strongest party in a majority of districts sees its full slate of candidates elected even if the margin of plurality is small. Despite this property, and mostly for technical reasons, this system remains rather widely employed for conducting local elections both in democracies and in electoral authoritarian regimes. This article employs the evidence from the 2019 municipal elections in St. Petersburg to examine how increased strategic coordination of opposition voters became instrumental in countering the sweep effect and thus reducing the scope of political monopoly in an overtly authoritarian context. The analysis shows that this goal was achieved primarily by enabling opposition-minded voters to cast a greater number of votes than it otherwise would have been.

This article uses a unique dataset from the September 2019 municipal elections in St. Petersburg in order to examine empirically the efficacy of strategic voting under authoritarianism, as manifest in the effects of the “smart vote campaign” of Alexei Navalny in Russia. The analysis allows for the conclusion that the campaign, while technically similar to the vote advice applications that are now widespread in many democracies, was efficient enough to make a significant difference in the overtly authoritarian context. We demonstrate empirically that Navalny’s call for strategic voting did indeed affect the behavior of the electorate, particularly by improving strategic coordination among opposition-minded voters; that the electoral results of the candidates backed by the “smart vote” campaign tended to be better than the electoral results of other non–United Russia candidates; and that as a result of the “smart vote” campaign, the dominant party’s electoral results deteriorated quite visibly.

Electoral Engineering in the Russian Regions (2003–2017). Europe-Asia Studies 72, no. 1 (2020): 80–98.

This article addresses the puzzle of electoral engineering in autocracies using data from three rounds of Russian regional legislative elections between 2003 and 2017. The analysis shows that electoral engineering was widespread in regions where governors lacked the resources necessary to rely on blatant forms of electoral malpractice for the benefit of United Russia. This pattern became evident during the third round of regional legislative elections. The study indicates that the manipulation of electoral systems may be important for authoritarian rulers when they are unable to rely on blatant electoral malpractice to ensure the certainty of electoral outcomes.

Prior to the 2002 electoral reform, political parties in Russia’s regional legislative elections showed poor performance. Since December 2003, however, all regions have been obliged to elect no less than half of the members of their assemblies by proportional representation. As a result, party competition at the sub-national level became unavoidable. This study tests three kinds of hypotheses dealing with the institutional, sociological, and political factors in the fragmentation of party systems within Russia’s regions. The analysis demonstrates that political factors, especially the activity of the Kremlin and the heads of regional executives, have played the primary role in shaping regional party systems.

The Rise and Fall of Local Self-Government in Petrozavodsk. Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post–Soviet Democratization 25, no. 2 (2017): 155–174.

This article examines the causal mechanism that resulted in the recall of the Petrozavodsk city mayor at the end of 2015. The analysis shows that the regional authorities played the leading role in occasioning this outcome. They decided to remove the Petrozavodsk mayor after failing to control her actions in office. The key step toward implementing this decision was eliminating the autonomy of local political elites, who supported the mayor. The regional authorities replaced popular mayoral elections in the city with the appointment of a city manager in order to assure their political control in the future. This case study demonstrates that the survival of mayoral governance and direct mayoral elections in Russian cities depend on mayoral loyalty to the regional authorities.

Veto Players and Major Electoral Reforms in Russia [with Sergey Shevchuk]. Russian Politics 1, no. 2 (2016): 203–221.

Within the period of 1993–2014 Russia experienced four major electoral reforms: in 1993, 2002, 2005 and 2014. One further attempt to change the Russian electoral system, initiated by President Yeltsin in 1994–95, was unsuccessful. We suggest that the successes as well as the failures of the electoral reforms in Russia can be explained with the same reasons as in other countries regardless of their political regime. In our view, electoral reforms within any political system are rooted in the specific arrangement of the veto players within the system and their political preferences. This paper demonstrates that major electoral reforms were successfully implemented in cases when the executive branch headed by the Russian president, striving for maximum control over the legislative process, was interested in such implementation and there were no other veto players able to block passage of the law.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles in Russian

The article is built upon a case-study of Petrozavodsk, the capital of the Republic of Karelia. In 2015, the regional authorities dismissed the Petrozavodsk city mayor and replaced popular mayoral elections in the city with the procedure of appointing a mayor chosen by the City Council from nominees put forward by the competition committee. The study describes the tools at the regional authorities’ disposal enabling them to fully embed emasculated local self-government into the subnational “power vertical”. There are among such tools both informal practices, allowing the regional authorities to supervise local policies, and more formalized leverages. The latter includes: (1) the control over the competition committee in charge of selecting new mayors through its chairperson, (2) the restoration of a special office within the local self-government structure designed to be occupied by a governor’s team representative, (3) putting a governor’s subordinate at the mayoral position, (4) filling self-government offices by former servants of the regional government. The scrutiny of mechanisms employed by regional authorities to subordinate local self-government enriches the literature studying the entry of authoritarian practices at the municipal level. The article also analyses the relationship between models of local heads selection and the quality of public goods provision. The case of Petrozavodsk shows that three out of four urgent city’s issues (lack of public housing for low-income citizens, a lack of municipal kindergartens, non-fulfillment of storm drainage repair) remained unresolved under the appointed mayor. Thus, the study provides no strong evidence to affirm that the appointed head of the city performed better than the elected one. This conclusion is in line with quantitative findings, indicating that there is a lack of robust relationship between models of local heads selection and the quality of public goods provision.

This paper discusses the success factors of self-nominees at the municipal elections in Russia. Based on the data from the 2014-2018 elections to the representative bodies of Russia’s regional administrative centers, it is shown that the electoral performance of independent candidates was directly dependent on their bargains with local branches of United Russia. We also discovered a connection between the electoral success of self-nominated candidates and a number of their personal characteristics, in particular, an incumbent status, a high level of education, and the presence of administrative, social or economic capital at their disposal.

Electoral Reforms in Comparative Perspective. Politicheskaia nauka no. 1 (2018): 283–300.

This article surveys the main approaches to the causes of electoral reforms in comparative perspective. Based on the recent literature, perspective research paths to the analysis of electoral system reforms are highlighted. In particularly, the attention is put on the importance of studying the phenomenon of electoral engineering in electoral authoritarian regimes.

Casual Mechanism vs. Pile of Facts: How to Evaluate Casual Links in Case Study Research [with Margarita Zavadskaya]. Polis: Politicheskie Issledovaniia no. 2 (2017): 134–146.

This article speaks to methodological aspects of the ways to use a popular research technique – process tracing. The latter has gained momentum as a compromise between neo-positivist and interpretative approaches. Authors provide a brief overview of the method’s role in current political research; carefully describe the peculiarities of method’s procedure; compare process tracing with other research tools and discuss its advantages and shortcomings. Process tracing is a type of within-case analysis that aims at inferring causal mechanisms that bring about outcomes in question. The main strengths of the approach are 1) possibility of falsification tests, 2) rigor of analytical procedure, based on Bayesian logic and related empirical tests, 3) getting the most of in-depth knowledge of the case, 4) compatibility with quantitative research as the auxiliary method. Apart from that, process tracing serves as a powerful remedy against a-theoretical narratives and turns the case study into a genuinely captivating detective storyline. Among the weak points one should mention 1) lack of parsimonial explanations, 2) lack of generalizability, 3) time-consuming process of data collection. To demonstrate how process tracing can be used in real-world research the article provides one example based on study by Ahmed which devoted to electoral reforms in Europe at the end of the 19th century. It is shown how Ahmed based on process tracing falsified the influential theory by Rokkan-Boix and put forward the solid argument for her model of explaining the logic of electoral system reforms in Europe at the time of the franchise expanded.

Electoral Thresholds at the Regional Parliamentary Elections in Russia: Explaining the Variations. Vestnik Permskogo Universiteta. Seriia: Politologiia no. 1 (2015): 68–83.

After the 2002-2003 electoral reform the vast majority of Russian regions had to elaborate new regional electoral regulations from scratch. There was a stark contrast among them in such a dimension of the electoral systems as electoral threshold. The present essay analyses the causes of this cross-regional variations over the period from 2003 to 2013. It is shown that there were three main causes of these variations: structural characteristics of the regional political and societal systems, the influence of the Federal Center and the regional political regimes.

Book Reviews in Russian

Electoral Malpractices around the World. Polis: Politicheskie Issledovaniia no. 5 (2020): 186–191.
The review discusses a book written by Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas “How to Rig an Election” (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2019). Based on field research, conducted by authors themselves in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and secondary sources they demonstrate the variety of manipulative tools at the disposal of authoritarian incumbents. Besides describing the authoritarian toolbox, authors pay attention to the ways of strengthening electoral integrity both in authoritarian and democratic regimes. “How to Rig an Election” neither puts forward nor tests empirically any research hypotheses. At the same time, the book proposes some new research questions for the further studying. What factors influence the incumbents’ choice of given manipulative tools during an election? Whether disinformation in social media and fake news affect voters’ electoral behavior? The book, aimed primarily at a wide audience, will be useful to anyone interested in authoritarian elections, the politics of electoral malpractice and electoral integrity. For those who are deeply familiar with the literature on comparative authoritarianism, the content of the book will be uninformative.
Why Fair Elections Matter. Polis: Politicheskie Issledovaniia no. 5 (2015): 186–191.

Reviewed is the monograph written by Pippa Norris (Norris P. Why Electoral Integrity Matters. N.Y.: Cambridge University Press. 2014. 297 p.), McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. The book seeks to answer the question: what happens when elections violate the international standards of electoral integrity. The author, basing on elaborate and diligent empirical study, comes to a number of important conclusions about the ability of ordinary citizens to estimate electoral integrity and the political consequences of fraudulent or rigged elections. Firstly, ordinary citizens are usually aware of many types of electoral malpractices and therefore can make reasoned judgments about the quality of elections in their countries. Secondly, high level of skepticism with regard to electoral integrity is linked to the legitimacy of a political system. Thirdly, lack of legitimacy entails certain consequences for patterns of voting and political participation, as well as protest activism. Fourthly, doubts in electoral integrity can trigger political violence in some cases. Such an outcome is highly likely in hybrid regimes. Finally, fraudulent or rigged contests under certain circumstances can push changes in a political system itself. The reviewed work contributes considerably to understanding of the linkage between elections and political processes on micro- and macro- levels. The book, undoubtedly, will be useful to those who are interested in electoral studies, problems of democratization and understanding of protest political activity.