Elections do not always serve as instruments of democracy, but can successfully sustain modern forms of authoritarianism by maintaining political cooptation, signaling the regime’s invincibility, distributing rent among elites, and maintaining linkages with territorial communities. Russia exemplifies electoral practices adapted to the needs of authoritarian survival. Recent institutional reforms reflect the regime’s constant adjustment to emerging challenges. This study traces the evolution of the role of elections in Russia for ruling elites, the opposition, and parties. It argues that the information-gathering and co-optation functions of elections help sustain authoritarian rule, whereas insufficient co-optation and failure to signal regime strength may lead to anti-regime mobilization and weaken the regime. The study utilizes new data from an expert survey on electoral integrity and malpractice in Russia carried out immediately after the legislative elections to the State Duma in September 2016.


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pp. 455-480
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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