Extra votes to signal loyalty: regional political cycles and national elections in Russia
Under the system of presidential appointments of regional governors, which existed in Russia from 2005 to 2012, gubernatorial loyalty to the central government and particularly governors’ ability to deliver satisfactory results to the ruling party in national-level elections were crucial to their likelihood of being reappointed to the next term. In this paper, we argue that governors, anticipating the relationship between loyalty and reappointments, attempted to deliver additional votes to the ruling party, and show that those attempts were subject to regional political cycles. Exploiting variation in the starting and expiry dates of Russian regional governors’ terms of office, we find that the winning margins for a pro-government party across Russian regions in national-level elections held between 2007 and 2012 were substantially higher when elections were closer to the beginning or to the expiration of a regional governor’s term. The effect is driven almost exclusively by the governors serving their first terms. However, for elections held between 1999 and 2004, when governors were subject to direct votes by regional constituencies, no similar effect is found. The results can be explained by, e.g., first impression and recency biases in appointment decisions. We then implement several exercises to identify the sources of the additional votes for the ruling party and demonstrate that governors, while unlikely committing electoral fraud, likely exerted effort to stimulate turnout among ruling party supporters.
KeywordsPolitical cycle Elections Electoral fraud Russia
JEL ClassificationD72 D73 P26
This research was supported by a grant from the CERGE-EI Foundation under a program of the Global Development Network (GDN). All opinions expressed are those of the authors and have not been endorsed by CERGE-EI or the GDN. All errors remaining in this text are the responsibility of the authors. This article was prepared in part while Dmitriy Vorobyev held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the Wisconsin Russia Project, sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of New York.
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