Voter alignments in a dominant party system: The cleavage structures of the Russian Federation.
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This thesis investigates whether there is a social cleavage structure across the Russian regions and whether this structure is mirrored in the electoral vote shares for Putin and his party United Russia on one hand, versus the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and its leader Gennady Zyuganov on the other. In addition to mapping different economic, demographic and cultural factors affecting regional vote shares, this thesis attempts to determine whether there is a party system based on social cleavages in Russia. In addition, as the Russian context is heavily influenced by the president, this thesis investigates whether the same cleavages can explain the distribution of vote shares during the presidential elections. Unemployment, pensioners, printed newspapers and ethnicity create opposing effects during parliamentary elections, while distance to Moscow, income, pensioners, life expectancy, printed newspapers and ethnicity created opposing effects during the presidential elections. The first finding of this thesis is not only that the Russian party system is rooted in social cleavages, but that it appears to be based on the traditional left-right" cleavage that characterizes all Western industrialized countries. In addition, despite the fact that Putin pulls voters from all segments of the society, the pattern found for the party system persists during presidential elections. The concluding finding shows that the main political cleavage in today's Russia is between the left represented by the communists and the right represented by the incumbents. The data used to answer the research question is comprised of regional electoral results and statistics. The methodological approach accounts for the unique nature of the data, with a random effects model specified to control for endogeneity bias as well as to let the effect of each variable vary both within and between regions. The findings significantly contribute to future studies of Russia in general, but also to research fields studying party systems and political cleavages, elections under authoritarian rule, electoral systems and the relationship between parties and presidents in a semi-presidential system.