Through a focus on the 2016 Russian parliamentary election, this article seeks to assess the strength of the Putin regime and the nature of the system itself. In contrast to those who have heralded its imminent decline, it is argued that the regime continues to display great resilience, the election providing evidence of the regime’s adaptability and its ability to cope with challenges. The nature of the regime is also questioned. It has become commonplace for scholars to refer to Russia’s political system under the presidency of Vladimir Putin as “electoral authoritarian”. The article examines the function of elections in such systems, with a particular emphasis on the way in which elections provide the regime with legitimacy. The conduct and outcome of the elections not only points to the confidence and resilience of the Putin regime but might also suggest that a declining reliance on elections to sustain the regime may lead to a re-appraisal of the electoral authoritarian model as a compelling conceptualization of the Russian political system.
Alexander J. Motyl, “Lights Out for the Putin Regime: The Coming Russian Collapse”, Foreign Affairs, 27 January 2016, New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2016, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russian-federation/2016-01-27/lights-out-putin-regime (accessed 4 September 2017); Nikolai Petrov, “Putin’s Downfall: The Coming Crisis of the Russian Regime”, London: European Council on Foreign Relations, 2016, available at: http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/summary/putins_downfall_the_coming_crisis_of_the_russian_regime7006 (accessed 4 September 2017).
See, for instance: Archie Brown, “Reading Russia: Forms Without Substance”, Journal of Democracy13, no. 2 (2009): 47–51; Grigorii V. Golosov, “The Regional Roots of Electoral Authoritarianism in Russia”, Europe-Asia Studies 63, no. 4 (2011): 623–640; Cameron Ross, “Federalism and Electoral Authoritarianism in Russia”, Demokratizatsiya 13, no. 3 (2005): 347–371; Cameron Ross, “Regional Elections and Electoral Authoritarianism in Russia”, Europe-Asia Studies 63, no. 4 (2011): 641–662; David White, “Taking it to the Streets: Raising the Costs of Electoral Authoritarianism in Russia”, Perspectives on European Politics and Society 14, no. 4 (2013): 582–598.
Peter Hobson, “Legitimized Elections: The Kremlin Plays a New Game”, Moscow Times, 10 March 2016, https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/legitimized-elections-the-kremlin-plays-a-new-game-52118 (accessed 4 September 2017). In the event, the responsibility for web-cams was left with regional and local authorities and their installation was not as widespread as had been the case in 2012.