Rescission of the direct popular election of Russia’s regional executives was interpreted by many observers as a cardinal indicator of the trend toward authoritarianism in Russia. In the wake of a series of vocal national protests against electoral fraud following the State Duma elections of December 2011, President Dmitrii Medvedev announced the reinstatement of gubernatorial elections, and a federal law was passed in May 2012 implementing this decision; the first gubernatorial elections under the new system took place in five Russian oblasts on 14 October 2012. This paper analyzes the campaigns and outcomes of these elections, as well as media and expert commentary surrounding them, with a goal of exploring whether the reinstitution of a gubernatorial electoral process presents a significant potential for renewed political competition or popular political mobilization at the regional level in Russia. Analysis of these early cases suggests that while these elections offer a real potential for genuine electoral contestation, the political establishment also exhibited the ability to apply a variety of formal and informal mechanisms to assure the desired outcome. Realization of the potential of gubernatorial elections to promote electoral competition would require a greater resolve and unity ofopposition parties, including at the subregional level.
Region: Regional Studies of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia
Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies

DeBardeleben, J, & Zherebtsov, M. (Mikhail). (2014). The reinstated gubernatorial elections in Russia: A return to open politics?. Region: Regional Studies of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, 3(1), 3–36. doi:10.1353/reg.2014.0007