The paper investigates the link between the sub-national variation of political regimes in a (at the federal level) non-democratic country and the appointments of federal officials in the sub-national provinces. In particular, we look at the appointment of the chief federal inspectors to the regions in Putin’s Russia in 2000–2012. Our main research question is whether appointment patterns can be explained by top-down concerns of the central government willing to keep control over the most unruly regions or by bottom-up self-selection of bureaucrats belonging to influential groups into more attractive positions more suitable for rent-seeking. The advantage of our case is that data we have at hand allow us to distinguish these two logics. Our results indicate that for the Russian chief federal inspectors in 2000–2012 bottom-up self-selection appears to be the more plausible explanation of the link between sub-national political regimes and appointment patterns.
The 2020 constitutional changes considerably increase presidential powers while sending mixed signals about presidential transition. The main driver of the amendments were term limits. The “zeroing” of Putin’s presidential terms enhances certainty for himself by fostering uncertainty for others. But there is more to the amendments: Numerous changes are not new, they simply align the constitutional text with subconstitutional powers the presidency had been accumulating. The embedding of term limit circumvention in a comprehensive constitutional overhaul is a risk-hedging strategy to avert resistance by weakening the signal about Putin’s intentions. Constitutional changes are therefore an instrument of elite coordination. The amendments also increase presidential flexibility. This expedited regime personalization is detrimental to governance and will make repression more prevalent. But it also creates more risks for Putin. Regardless of how presidential succession will play out, Putin’s legacy will be a highly personalized authoritarian regime with a constitutionally unconstrained presidency.