Research project (dissertation)
How do opposition actors contest local elections under the conditions of electoral authoritarianism? Evidence from contemporary Russia
While national and regional elections have become less competitive in Russia throughout the last years, we can recently see a rise in electoral competition on the local level (e.g. municipal elections Moscow 2017, United Voting Day 2019). This observation is reflected in an increasing number of applicants as candidates for local elections in some places and in the comparatively significant electoral success for the opposition on the municipal level in several cities. The latter development is even more remarkable as the obstacles for succeeding at elections, due to electoral malpractice and access restrictions, have not decreased.
To address this puzzle, I investigate how non-dominant actors organize electoral competition on a municipal level under the conditions of electoral authoritarianism. Using a qualitative case study approach and applying the method of process tracing, I examine the municipal electoral process and local political dynamics in three Russian regional capital cities (Orel, Nizhny Novgorod and Vladimir) throughout the campaign and electoral period related to the city council elections in September 2020.
Based on interviews, press reports, campaign materials and social media discussions, the in-depth investigation shall allow to identify the strategies sought by non-dominant actors in the local electoral arena and explain their successes and failures. Overall, the dissertation seeks to deepen our understanding of local political processes in Russia and, more general, of subregional elections in electoral autocracies.