Political Machines at Work: Voter Mobilization and Electoral Subversion in the Workplace
56 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 6 Nov 2012
Date Written: 2012
We explore how modern autocrats win elections by inducing employers to mobilize their employees to vote for the regime and thereby subvert the electoral process. Using two original surveys of employers and workers conducted around the 2011 parliamentary elections in Russia, we find that just under one quarter of employers engaged in some form of political mobilization. We then develop a simple framework for identifying which firms engage in voter mobilization and which workers are targeted for mobilization. We find that large, financially dependent firms in sectors characterized by asset immobility or slack labor markets whose managers are “core” supporters of the regime can offer their votes to the regime at the lowest cost and therefore are especially likely to mobilize their workers. By identifying the conditions under which workplace mobilization occurs in authoritarian regimes, we contribute to the longstanding debate about the economic bases of democratization (Moore 1966, Boix 2003, Acemoglu and Robinson 2006; Ziblatt 2008; 2009; Mares and Zhu forthcoming). In addition, we explore an understudied means of subverting elections in contemporary autocracies: the use of economic coercion to mobilize voters (Hyde 2006; Myagkov and Ordeshook 2009; Beber and Scacco 2012). Moreover, our research finds that clientelist exchange can thrive in the absence of deeply embedded political parties when it is brokered by employers (Stokes 2005; Nichter 2008).
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