A political scientist examines how regional elites shape the electoral fortunes of Russia’s hegemonic party, United Russia (UR). Using original data on regional legislative elections from 2003 to 2011, we show that UR performs better in those regions where regional governors control strong political machines. Russia’s leadership undercut its own electoral strategy by replacing popular elected governors with colorless bureaucrats who struggled to mobilize votes on behalf of United Russia. This is one of the reasons for United Russia’s poor performance in recent elections.
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