Opposition parties in dominant party regimes. Inclusion and exclusion in Russia’s regions
Russia’s party system is now a dominant-party system, as the 2011 Duma elections bore out. United Russia won for the third consecutive time, meeting Sartori’s 1976 criterion for being classified as a dominant party. United Russia’s
domination looks especially strong on the regional level since almost all governors are party members, and the same is true for the majority of regional legislative members. United Russia has become an important tool for recruitment into the ruling elite and, at the same time, it reflects the structure of regional elites as oversized governing coalitions. While United Russia includes most prominent politicians and client networks, the party’s electoral support is limited and falling after its 2007 peak, which leaves significant space for the other parties. However, since every party seeks, at least in theory, to come to power, Russia’s opposition parties have to make a hard choice between being incorporated into the existing distribution of power or openly resisting the authorities in the hope that, by doing so, they will receive public support and win governmental power. Comparative studies of authoritarian regimes have not examined how opposition parties make this choice.