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Local Self-Government Reform in Russian Regions in 2003-2015: Factors of Mayors’ Survival

Comparative Politics
Executives
Federalism
Institutions
Local Government
Quantitative
Political Regime
Kristina Gushchina
University of Cologne
Kristina Gushchina
University of Cologne
Pavel Kononenko
St Petersburg State University
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Abstract

Our paper is devoted to the analysis of the institutional changes on local level in contemporary Russia. In 2003 the new federal law on local self-government was adopted. One of its main provisions split local executive power into two parts by introducing a new position of a city manager, the head of the local administration, alongside with a traditional position of a mayor. Despite the fact that the mayor could continue to be directly elected, he/she was transformed into a nominal political figure endowed only with representational powers while all administrative functions were delegated to the city manager. However, the most likely scenario was the abolishment of the direct mayoral elections and the mayor’s appointment by the deputies of the local legislature. Local legislature was also granted with the right to hire city managers under the fixed-term contract with an active involvement of the regional authorities. The choice of whether to preserve the direct mayoral elections or to implement the new model of local executives’ organization was up to the local legislatures/referendum until 2014. According to the new amendments to the federal law, now this decision is made by the regional authorities. As a result, this reform led to the increased oversight and control of local politics by the regional authorities. Thus, these institutional changes can be considered alongside with the abolishment of the direct gubernatorial elections in 2004 and other re-centralization tendencies in Russia. We claim that in the Russian context the introduction of city managers was motivated by a need to extend the control of the federal government and did not result in improved efficiency, transparency, and professionalism, as it was promised by the proponents of the reform. Hiring of city managers, which is a common practice in many European and American cities, morphed into a process controlled by the regional and federal government. Consequently, city managers can be seen as an indicator of the municipalities’ inclusion in the federal “vertical of power”. What is interesting is that the process of city managers’ introduction took a couple of years, or even months, in some cities and more than ten years in the others which allows us to state the heterogeneity of the Russian political space. What were the factors that helped local democracy to survive in one group of regions longer then in another one? Our study used the data from 79 Russian regional capitals in order to identify those factors that allowed some cities to resist the undemocratic reform’s implementation longer. Applying the survival analysis, particularly running Cox proportional-hazard regression, we found that the remoteness of the municipality from Moscow is correlated to more local autonomy. Thereby, we will present the inquiry about the factors that contributed to the mayors’ “survival” in some of the Russian regional capitals.