Russian regional-level voting has been a better instrument of democracy than some might think, according to this close and systematic examination. In elections for provincial governors, republican presidents, and other executives of Russia's various sub-national units, voters have pursued their economic interests with notable sophistication, overcoming not only incumbents' enormous advantage in representation in the media but also various kinds of corruption and dirty tricks. Andrew Konitzer's study tracks Russian voter behavior in two ways. First, a survey of voters and their motivations in Ul'ianovskaia Oblast offers a detailed analysis of why Russians vote the way they do. The most important finding is that voters held their governor accountable for the economic performance of their region relative to that of other regions. Second, Konitzer examines all the elections for subnational executives in Russia between June 1996 and April 2001, assembling a database of more than 150 potentially relevant political, economic, and institutional factors.
These analyses, like the intensive study of Ul'ianovskaia Oblast, show that despite a vast number of shortcomings these contests enforced a degree of accountability for economic performance. Finally, the author reflects on the obstacles that kept Russian voters' choices from making a bigger difference during the Yeltsin and Putin eras, and in the wake of the recent move to a system of presidential appointees, he speculates on the future of a Russia without regional executive elections.