Electoral Reform during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Empirical Evidence from Russia

In: Russian Politics
Nikolai Grishin The Faculty of Political Science, Department of Political Institutions and Applied Political Science, St. Petersburg State University St Petersburg Russia

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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant transformations of electoral institutions, and provoked changes in the politics of electoral reforms in some polities. The paper claims that Russia has used a special model of electoral reform during the pandemic that differs from both its previous experience and recommendations of international organizations. The comparative historical method is applied to bridge internal and external explanations that may offer an understanding of the current reform of electoral rule in the Russian political context. The pandemic has become a reason for changing traditional electoral procedures and for implementing this reform. Empirical evidence suggests that the reform has been implemented by a depoliticized technocratic procedure ignoring the principles of political consensus. The reform process implies a shift of the government’s main efforts from decision-making to increasing dependence on propaganda, and informational confrontation with opponents in the subsequent reform cycle. The approach to the implementation of the electoral reform casts doubt on the level of public support for the new procedures and exacerbates political risks.

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