We explore how modern autocrats win elections by inducing employers to mobilize their employees to vote for the regime and thereby subvert the electoral process. Using two original surveys of employers and workers conducted around the 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia, we find that just under one quarter of employers engaged in some form of political mobilization. We then develop a simple framework for identifying which firms engage in voter mobilization and which workers are targeted for mobilization. We find that large, financially dependent firms in sectors characterized by asset immobility or slack labor markets whose managers are “core” supporters of the regime can offer their votes to the regime at the lowest cost and therefore are especially likely to mobilize their workers. By identifying the conditions under which workplace mobilization occurs in authoritarian regimes, we contribute to the longstanding debate about the economic bases of democratization. In addition, we explore an understudied means of subverting elections in contemporary autocracies: the use of economic coercion to mobilize voters. Moreover, our research finds that clientelist exchange can thrive in the absence of deeply embedded political parties when it is brokered by employers.
Why some political parties join popular protests, whereas others abstain or even oppose? Using paired case-study comparison between party models of interactions with protest movements in the Russian regions, we examine political parties' strategies towards «For Fair Elections» movement in 2011–2012 and explain these choices through two jointly operating mechanisms: level of party institutionalization and cooptation. We show that despite the symbiosis of the state and political parties and overall parties' loyalty to the regime in Russia, on an organizational level they differ in strategy and degree of involvement in the social movement. We argue that the mechanism of party institutionalization explains the switch between involvement and abstention, while cooptation does a better job of explaining the «support/ counteract» choice. Ключевые слова: политические партии; социальные движения; субнациональная политика; политическая мобилизация