Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

Russell Bova




The presence of elections in a regime that is not outright authoritarian has long been thought to be a black and white indication of a democratic regime. However, in the last fifteen years, the language used to classify political regimes has been expanded, and the line between democratic and authoritarian has blurred. The hybrid regimes types that fill the grey space in between combine traits from both sides. In one such regime type, electoral authoritarianism, regular elections are held, but are instrumentally manipulated by an authoritarian government. Many of the states filling this space have come from the post-Cold War wave of democratization. Elections, assumably adopted with the best of intentions, have been retained by regimes that have nonetheless slid gradually towards authoritarianism. The continued occurrence of elections in these circumstances, where the process is more important than the results, begs the question of why they are happening at all. In what ways do electoral authoritarian regimes use elections as tools to maintain their control, and what are the costs and benefits to the legitimacy of the regime associated with these methods?

In the examining the case of Russia under President Vladimir Putin, one such electoral authoritarian regime, I will seek to answer these questions. Since taking office in 1999, Putin, Russia’s second post-Soviet leader, has presided over the drastic centralization of the Russian state, and it is his ascendance to power that marks the beginning of Russian electoral authoritarianism.