This study analyses the influence of the party reforms of 2012 and the ‘counter-reforms’ of 2013–2014 on the Russian party system, and the structure of political and electoral cleavages in Russian regions. The emergence of new political parties in 2012–2013 led to a temporary increase in electoral competition, an augmentation of the political space, and a rise in the number of electoral cleavages, but these developments did not weaken the domination of United Russia. The trend towards an ever greater tightening up of entry requirements for contestation in the elections led to a lowering of the number of political and, consequently, electoral cleavages, in addition to a reconfiguration of the political space. The study shows that there was an unbalancing of the political cleavage structure in 2012–2015: the socioeconomic political cleavage, whose primary place is a key determinant of equilibrium, ceded the top position to the authoritarian–democratic cleavage in 2012–2013, and to the ‘Ukrainian’ (systemic) cleavage in 2014–2015.
- cleavage structure
- Russian regional elections
- political and electoral cleavages
- party reform in Russia