United Russia’s Primaries and the Strength of Political Machines in the Regions of Russia: Evidence from the 2016 Duma Elections
The primary elections of United Russia party serve as a tool for party organization and voter mobilization. In the run-up to the 2016 national legislative elections, the strength of United Russia’s regional political machines was tested in a massive campaign of intra-party elections. This study traces the history United Russia’s primaries in 2007-2011, which allows for arriving at a better understanding of the multiple roles played by quasi-democratic institutions in an authoritarian political context. On the basis of these findings, we employ United Russia’s capacity to mobilize voter turnout in primary elections as an indirect indicator of the strength of party-controlled political machines. Our analysis of the results of the 2016 Duma elections in 83 regions of Russia demonstrates voter turnout in the spring 2016 party primaries of United Russia to a significant extent explain cross-regional variation in party success.