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Political Machines at Work: Voter Mobilization and Electoral Subversion in the Workplace

Timothy Frye, Ora John Reuter and David Szakonyi

No WP BRP 08/PS/2012, HSE Working papers from National Research University Higher School of Economics

Abstract: 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.

Keywords: voter mobilization; workplace; Russia; parliamentary elections (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012
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Published in WP BRP Series: Political Science / PS, December 2012, pages 1-42

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