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Article

Subnational Appointments in Authoritarian Regimes: Evidence from Russian Gubernatorial Appointments

Journal of Politics. 2012. No. 74(2). P. 1023-1037.

Elections are among the most important and least understood institutions in contemporary authoritarian regimes. Theoretically, electoral authoritarian regimes should have an informational advantage that makes them more robust than other types of authoritarian regimes, but much empirical evidence suggests otherwise. In this article we offer a new perspective on why this might be the case. Specifically, we consider how authoritarian elections influence a ruler’s choices in making cadre appointments. We argue that the imperative of winning authoritarian elections forces authoritarian leaders to prioritize the appointment of politically loyal cadres, who can help the regime win elections. This choice often comes at the expense of appointing officials who are competent at making good public policy and promoting economic development, factors that may contribute to long-term regime stability. We test this theory using an original dataset of gubernatorial appointments in one leading contemporary authoritarian regime, Russia.