In political science, there is a widely shared opinion that quasi-democratic elements of hybrid regimes are at best a mere facade. The paper presents a theoretical alternative that demonstrates a conceptual possibility for the public to influence the policy process in Russia’s regions. The author starts with analyzing the key features of the policy process in hybrid regimes in general and reveals the potential ways for citizens to influence this process, both direct and indirect. Then the author focuses on the regional level of government, since it is where the very implementation of policies takes place. Having studied the model of relations between the federal center and regional governments, the author concludes that public influence on the policy process is possible provided that the benefits from electoral manipulations for regional elites are higher than their costs. A number of circumstances that make the realization of citizens’ influence more likely are suggested: the appointment of the governor by the president, the lack of free resources in the region, a relatively stable level of greater openness of the political system compared to other regions, and substantial public attention to the policy issue.
Unlike democracies, autocracies can be stable only if they satisfy the population's material expectations. To that end, they need effective state institutions. This confronts an autocratic ruler with a dilemma: such institutions endanger the nontransparent distribution of resources to the powerful elites, who support the regime. Therefore, autocracies are also extremely vulnerable to upheavals in the global economy. In crisis situations, they can respond by partially opening the regime to larger circles of elites. If they try to preserve the status quo, they risk stagnation and decay or an open dictatorship.