Political opposition in Russia has frequently been regarded as a “dying species.” Indeed, despite the wave of anti-governmental political mobilization in 2011–2012, United Russia increased its share of the vote from 49.3 percent in 2011 to 54.2 percent in 2016, as well as dramatically improving its position in the federal parliament by winning 203 of 225 single-member districts in the last elections. The anti-governmental mobilization of 2011–2012 may have temporarily opened the opportunity structure, but the political opposition faces growing pressure from the regime. Yet in certain subnational elections between 2012 and 2016, both systemic and non-systemic opposition groups have managed to survive and even oust incumbents. In this study, I examine the variation in regime-opposition interactions by analyzing the data on 84 regional elections between 2012 and 2016. I argue that there is a learning curve on the both sides of the contest: while incumbents rely heavily on access to state resources and actively manipulate the legal and political electoral framework, the opposition tries to exploit elite fractures and use organizational power to attract voters and entrench its position in the electoral arena.


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pp. 481-502
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