Recent Award

Collaborative Research: Voter Mobilization and Electoral Subversion in the Workplace

Intellectual Merit: The project is important to US national security interests because it addresses economic coercion that undermines democracy. Scholars have long recognized that rulers in non democracies can extend their tenure by subverting elections, focusing on ballot-box fraud, repression, turnout-buying, vote buying, patronage spending, and the co-optation of opposition elites. However, they have largely overlooked one prominent form of electoral subversion in contemporary hybrid regimes: the coercive mobilization of voters by employers. In many countries, employers - firm managers, supervisors, CEOs, landlords, bosses, directors and so on - use their leverage over workers to induce them to turn out and/or vote a specific way. Using surveys of 1) firm managers in Russia and 2) residents of Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Honduras, Algeria, Lebanon, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia, this research seeks to identify the conditions under which firm managers apply political pressure on their employees during elections.

This research sheds light on an understudied means by which rulers in hybrid regimes subvert elections and forestall democratization. It also identifies how the structure of the economy affects a country's prospects for regime change. In addition, while much of what we know about clientelism suggests that it is largely confined to poor, rural settings with tight-knit social networks, this research explores how clientelist exchange can persist in modern, industrial settings.

Broader Impacts: By identifying the conditions that allow leaders to subvert elections via the workplace, this research will help policymakers and the democracy assistance community to develop programs that improve the integrity of elections. More specifically, the proposed research will lead to the development of vote monitoring techniques that can detect workplace electoral subversion and informational programs that can be deployed by NGOs to reduce the incidence of economic coercion in the workplace. The proposed research will also show how incomplete economic reform, which leaves firms dependent on the state, can make workers' voting rights vulnerable to infringement. Thus, this project will help policymakers understand how economic reforms that reduce state power over firms can help promote political liberalization. Finally, this research contributes to our understanding of why and when hybrid regimes break down; an important public policy consideration in its own right.

Principal Investigator: 

Timothy Frye

Marshall D Shulman Professor of Post-Soviet Foreign Policy

Home Department: 


Saturday, March 15, 2014 to Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Research Category: 




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