Why Political Machines Fail: Evidence from Bashkortostan
This article examines the causes of dysfunction in the political machines of Russian regions. According to existing studies, one of the main factors limiting the effectiveness of political machines is the rotation of governors and the Kremlin’s practice of appointing officials who have no previous ties to the region (so-called “Varangians”). Using a unique database of biographies of the municipal heads of Bashkortostan, this study provides a detailed explanation of the causal link between the rotation of the governor and the subsequent failure of the political machine, arguing that it is not so much the status of the new governor as a change in the management model of local elites that leads to a decline in incumbents’ electoral support. Local elites are a key link in the mechanism of the political machine, but they respond to the demands of the regional authorities only when their interests and political patronage are guaranteed by the governor. The lack of such guarantees leads to the loss of loyalty from local elites, negatively impacting the work of the political machine.