Who's to Blame? Political Centralization and Electoral Punishment under Authoritarianism
Does decentralization affect how voters attribute blame for poor economic performance? The question of whether political centralization ties regime leaders to local economic outcomes is particularly important in authoritarian regimes, where economic performance legitimacy is a key source of regime stability. Using political and economic data from large Russian cities for the period 2003-2012, we investigate whether replacing direct mayoral elections with appointments affects the way voters attribute blame for economic outcomes. Using a difference-in-differences design, we find that the ruling party is more likely to be punished for poor economic performance in cities with appointed mayors than it is in cities with elected mayors.