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Innovating Consultative Authoritarianism: Internet Votes as a Digital Tool to Stabilize Nondemocratic Rule

Sat, June 11, 9:30 to 10:45, Fukuoka Hilton, Kashi

Abstract

Extant research on the consequences of the Internet for non-democratic politics has largely focused on how oppositional activists leverage new digital tools. By contrast, still relatively little is known about how authoritarian elites proactively deploy digital technologies to legitimize their rule. This article contributes to filling this gap by scrutinizing one highly innovative tactic that has recently been adopted repeatedly by Russia’s ruling elites: the organization of “Internet votes” to staff advisory bodies to the government. The article presents an in-depth case study of the first such Internet vote conducted in 2012. It is argued that the new tool can be swiftly deployed to (1) disempower recalcitrant activists and (2) convey the image of transparent, accountable, and responsive government.

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