Substituting Distribution for Growth:The Political Logic of Intergovernmental Transfers in the Russian Federation
Given limited resources and economic realities, how do politicians distribute monetary transfers in order to retain office? Previous work has largely focused on two models – a core model of rewarding loyal supporters and a swing model of purchasing the support of easily swayed voters. Empirical results have proven mixed, however. In this article, we argue that these mixed results are due to economic factors, which condition politicians’ distributive strategies. In our model, we consider that politician and voters are involved in a repeated game, where past expectations condition future strategy. Current (core) supporters who receive few benefits and perceive themselves worse off than other, less loyal, groups are likely to be less loyal themselves tomorrow. In our model, politicians avoid this by providing their supporters consumption benefits directly, in the form of transfers, or indirectly, via strong economic growth. Where economic growth is good, politicians can distribute less to core supporters, who benefit from the rising economy. Where economic growth is weak, however, politicians make transfers to their core supporters to ensure future loyalty. We test our theory using data on federal transfers from the Russian Federal government to 78 Russian Regions from 2000–2008.