Elections, protest, and authoritarian regime stability: Russia 2008-2020 (2021)
In a path-breaking study of Russian elections, Regina Smyth reveals how much electoral competition matters to the Putin regime and how competition leaves Russia more vulnerable to opposition challenges than is perceived in the West. Using original data and analysis, Smyth demonstrates how even weak political opposition can force autocratic incumbents to rethink strategy and find compromises in order to win elections. Smyth challenges conventional notions about Putin's regime, highlighting the vast resources the Kremlin expends to maintain a permanent campaign to construct regime-friendly majorities. These tactics include disinformation as well as symbolic politics, social benefits, repression, and falsification. This book reveals the stresses and challenges of maintaining an electoral authoritarian regime and provides a roadmap to understand how seemingly stable authoritarian systems can fall quickly to popular challenges even when the opposition is weak. A must-read for understanding Russia's future and the role of elections in contemporary autocratic regimes.