Roberts, Sean (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Restricted to Repository staff only until 31 July 2040.
This case study examines the role of the political party United Russia in the rise of ‘dominant-power politics’, also termed ‘electoral authoritarianism’, that characterises the Putin period (2000-2008). Comparative literature identifies parties as important independent or explanatory variables in a range of regime outcomes, including the successful consolidation of democracy, but also in the establishment and consolidation of authoritarian rule. The impressive rise of United Russia in the Russian political system from late 2001 onwards, together with its co-occurrence with the growing strength of the Putin regime, suggests that the party was a factor in the outcome of the latter. This research first develops a theoretical framework to understand the role of parties in modern political systems and then applies this framework to explore the Russian case. Although a component of power in the Putin period, this research argues that the origins of United Russia in the ‘party of power’ phenomenon limit its value as an explanatory variable. Rather than a principal power in the emerging post-Yeltsin political order, United Russia is an agent of a powerful civilian executive, which remains beyond the control of any party. In this sense, the rise of United Russia in the Putin period is misleading. United Russia is an example of ‘virtual’ party hegemony; a reflection of the intentions and ability of non-party power-holders to project their power onto party-agents. This research contributes to existing literature on party politics in the post-Soviet space and Russian politics in the Putin period. In comparative terms, this study contributes to existing notions of party dominance and emerging literature on divergent regime trajectories in the post-Cold War period.
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