№ 2, 2021
In order to increase their stability and neutralize protests, autho ritarian regimes often resort to co-opting opposition, in particular, via offering spoils (important positions) in the legislative bodies to the opposition. In the case of federations, the units of which have their own legislatures, such mechanism can be applied not only at the national, but also at the regional level. Modern Russia is a case in point.
The article examines the strategies and practices of co-opting opposition implemented in the Russian regions. The authors document a dynamic growth in the number of regions that practice consensus rule in the legislatures, while maintaining a large regional diversity in the composition of the “ruling coalitions”, which usually do not include all the present parties. The research carried out by the authors demonstrate that, in full accordance with the theory of rational choice, when making a decision to co-opt one or another opposition player, the authorities take into account her strength. The institutional capacity (number of spoils available) of the regional parliaments also affects whether co-optation mechanism will be invoked. At the same time, the analysis of the consequences of co-optation practices reveals their weak effectiveness as an instrument of restraining protest activity of the opposition, especially in the case of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. According to the authors’ conclusion, the limited influence of such practices on political processes in the regions can be explained by both the regional authorities’ actions (a formal and selective approach to co-optation) and the logic of the opposition itself, which tends to see spoils as the recognition of its political weight, rather than a deal with the authorities. Such considerations make the relations between the authorities and the opposition in the regions a positional game, rather than a direct “purchase” of loyalty in exchange for spoils.
Turovsky R. F.
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