Russia's Authoritarian Elections by Stephen White (ed.). London: Routledge, 2011. 203pp., £85.00, ISBN 978 0 415 69671 5
Article first published online: 10 JAN 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Political Studies Review © 2013 Political Studies Association
Political Studies Review
Volume 11, Issue 1, pages 135–136, January 2013
How to Cite
Shearman, P. (2013), Russia's Authoritarian Elections by Stephen White (ed.). London: Routledge, 2011. 203pp., £85.00, ISBN 978 0 415 69671 5. Political Studies Review, 11: 135–136. doi: 10.1111/1478-9302.12000_97
- Issue published online: 10 JAN 2013
- Article first published online: 10 JAN 2013
This book, which is a reproduction of a special issue of Europe–Asia Studies (63 (4), 2011) provides a collection of essays by experts on elections and Russian politics that examine the changing electoral system, public perceptions of elections, and the various ways in which most of the system is believed to be corrupted to ensure the continued rule of the current governing elite.
Stephen White's opening chapter outlines the mechanisms that are employed by the authorities to ensure the right electoral outcome: procedures for the registration of parties, the role of electoral commissions, pressure on workers and students to vote for particular individuals or parties, ballot stuffing and various inducements to vote. In the second chapter White joins with Ol'ga Kryshtanovskaya in an examination of how the new law on elections to the Russian parliament in 2005 was negotiated. Their analysis is based on a series of interviews with seventeen highly placed officials, politicians and expert advisers directly involved in the reform. They found agreement among their interviewees that eliminating single-member constituencies was the most important change, designed to remove independents and lessen the influence of the regions.
Grigorii V. Golosov identifies the regional roots of ‘electoral authoritarianism’ in which competitive elections are used as the main source of regime legitimacy. By restricting basic freedoms (such as a media free from state controls) and employing a variety of techniques (from fraud to rules regarding the registration of political parties) the ruling party ensures it retains power through an electoral process that provides no real alternative. Thus elections are robbed of their primary functions of political choice and the recruitment and circulation of political elites. Golosov's main argument is that this political order has its origins in centre–periphery relations, for it was first in the regions that authoritarian structures developed, and in repayment for being allowed to control their own local affairs regional leaders demonstrated their political loyalty to the centre by ensuring the correct outcome in federal elections.
Other contributions by leading Western and Russian specialists include Stephen White and Valentina Feklyunin writing on the view of ordinary Russian voters; Mikhail Myagkov and Peter C. Ordeshook on the ‘metastasised fraud’ of the Russian presidential election of 2008; Cameron Ross on elections in the regions and ‘electoral authoritarianism’; Ian McAllister and Stephen White on perceptions of the public on the fairness of elections; Derek S. Hutcheson on the role of international observers; and Sarah Birch on Russian elections in comparative perspective.