What explains regional variation in election fraud? Evidence from Russia: a research note

Max Bader*, Carolien van Ham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
349 Downloads (Pure)


The December 2011 legislative election was among the most fraudulent national elections in Russia since the communist period. The fraud, however, was not evenly spread across the country. Precinct-level election returns from the 83 regions of the Russian Federation suggest that the level of fraud ranged from minimal or small in some regions to extreme in some others, with moderate to high fraud levels in many regions in between. We argue that in an electoral authoritarian context like Russia, regional variation in fraud can be explained by differences in (a) the perceived need by regional authorities to signal loyalty to the center by “delivering” desired election results; (b) the capacity of regional authorities to organize fraud; and (c) the vulnerability of citizens to political pressure and manipulation. We test the effect of signaling, capacity, and vulnerability on electoral fraud in the 2011 legislative elections with data on the 83 regions of the Russian Federation. We find evidence for all three mechanisms, finding that the tenure of governors in office, United Russia's dominance in regional legislatures, and the ethnic composition of regions are most important for explaining regional variation in electoral fraud.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-528
Number of pages15
JournalPost-Soviet affairs
Issue number6
Early online date10 Oct 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2015


  • Russia
  • Elections
  • Election fraud
  • Regions
  • n/a OA procedure


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