Finland and its coronavirus strategy

Our project members Margarita Zavadskaya and Elena Gorbacheva not only write about the life and politics changed by the coronavirus for ElMaRB Politics&Pandemics series but also wrote an analytical note for European Dialogue expert group about how Finland deals with the outbreak and what can be learned from it.

In the paper titled “Борьба с пандемией в Финляндии: бесполезные уроки?” (Fighting the pandemic in Finland: useless lessons?), the researchers provide a detailed overview of how the state reacted to the emergency, what measures were undertaken, how the decisions are made, and when will the restrictions be lifted. They conclude, that even though the Finnish strategy seems to be efficient, it is not likely to be borrowed by states with a different political system. However, some things from Finnish experience can still be taken into account. Which ones? You can find out about them from the analytical note.

Electioneering in the times of pandemic: an overview of the elections and referendums from February to July 2020

Pandemic throws a monkey wrench into many plans, including national elections and in some special cases like Russia – attempts to call ‘a referendum’ or symbolic vote to support constitutional amendments that will extend the president’s term in power. Electoral timing has always been a highly sensitive issue for political elites: in Westminster democracies, early elections are a way to extend the government’s longevity and to surf the wave of massive support, in others – electoral time-table is exogenous and can be altered only under extreme circumstances. The COVID-19 epidemic is definitely one of those. Here we collected the data on all the countries that scheduled elections and/or referendums, whether these countries altered electoral schedules given the pandemic and how it affected electoral outcomes. This is the fourth post of our special coronavirus series “Politics & Pandemics”, written by Margarita Zavadskaya and Elena Gorbacheva.

Reading time: 10 minutes

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Uzbekistan faces COVID-19

During the last months, we observe a dramatic variety of how countries with diverging healthcare systems and regimes react to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to several accounts, the Chinese coping model of containing the disease seems to provoke a lot of interest if not admiration. However, China is infamously known for systemic misreporting on the state of affairs and this experience should be taken with caution. Communist and post-communist states share the common legacy of a universalistic welfare system based on political compliance (putting aside special services for the privileged groups) (Cook 2011) and it is the case of former-USSR states. Today we are glad to publish a short analytical entry by Mirzokhid Karshiev, Doctoral Candidate in the Global Processes and Flows in the Eurasian Space research group, with an insider’s view on how Uzbekistan – another example of a closed state with communist legacy – manages the challenges of COVID-19. Mirzokhid Karshiev is currently conducting fieldwork in Tashkent in the H2020 MSC RISE project New Markets.

Photo: Shavkat Boltaev

Reading time: 13 minutes

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Shifting the Blame: Does COVID-19 Undermine Political Support for Putin?

We continue with our special coronavirus series “Politics & Pandemics”, and this week’s post is written by ElMaRB project leader Dr. Margarita Zavadskaya. In the series, we provide weekly updates on the coronavirus outbreak and its effects on politics, media, and activism. We will publish blog entries written by us and invited experts,  where we will try to look at the current events through the prism of political and social sciences.

You self-isolate while I withdraw myself. Source.

Reading time: 5 minutes

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Social Distancing under Autocracy: How Pandemic Changes Protest in Russia?

This post opens a series “Politics & Pandemics” – weekly updates on the coronavirus outbreak and its effects on politics, media, and activism. We will publish blog entries written by us and invited experts,  where we will try to look at the current events through the prism of political and social sciences. The first entry is written by Doctoral student Elena Gorbacheva.

Reading time: 5 minutes

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Should we trust Russian surveys?

In the latest issue of Baltic Rim Economics you can read an article written by our Doctoral student Eemil Mitikka – “Should we trust Russian surveys?”. Eemil has been using survey data in his Master’s Thesis and will continue to use it in his Doctoral dissertation. Russian surveys might indeed raise concerns of preference falsification and under-representation, but what if the situation is not that bad? Eemil in his piece discusses the common challenges that arise when working with survey data and comes to the following conclusion:

To answer the question posed in the title, it is obvious that we should not trust blindly Russian surveys. Yet, since alternative ways to study mass attitudes are limited, surveys maintain their functionality and relevance in public opinion studies. Naturally, it is possible that better methods to study public sentiments will occur in the future. In the meantime, however, traditional surveys serve as valuable tools in analyzing societies – including contemporary Russia.

Read the full article online here.

Environmental protests in Russia

Yesterday in Oodi library a panel discussion on environmental activism in Russia “Citizens, authorities, and waste management in Russia” was held. The event was organised by Suomi-Venäjä Seura and was conducted in Russian and Finnish languages. The seminar addressed current environmental issues related to waste management from the perspective of activists and researchers. Pavel Andreev, chief editor of the 7×7 online media outlet, PhD candidate Elena Gorbacheva, and Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen participated In the discussion, chaired by Satu Hassi, Finnish MP from the Green Party.
The speakers highlighted the Shies protests – since summer 2018, people in Arkhangelsk region and Komi Republic are actively protesting against the landfill construction for Moscow waste in their area. The protesters formed “Stop-Shies” coalition, and now they organise people’s primaries and aim to select one candidate, “People’s governor”, which they will actively promote and hope to see as the new governor of Arkhangelsk region.

The video recording of the event is available below:

Lecture in CEU

Yesterday Margarita Zavadskaya gave a lecture “Variety of Local Governance in Russia: Do Autocracies Serve People’s Interests?” at the Central European University, Budapest Campus, Hungary. During the lecture, Margarita presented and discussed her co-authored with Lev Shilov article.

Does good governance exist under autocracy and to what extent public goods provision depends on budget autonomy and political loyalty? Local heads in Russia are caught between citizens and governors that hold them accountable. We aim to explore the heterogeneity of local governance in Russian municipalities (municipal and urban districts) by constructing weighted index of public goods provision and estimating the effects of budget autonomy and vote delivery for the United Russia in 2016-17. Our findings suggest that coercive vote mobilization harm public goods provision in municipalities of relatively small size.

More information on the event can be found here.

The game is afoot

On the 5th of February, we had our first project meeting, where the plan for the next three years was drafted. Our project is quite ambitious and its realisation requires fieldwork, participation in notable conferences, workshop organisation, extensive data collection, and many other important activities. The schedule is busy and therefore very exciting.

In this blog, we will be telling more about what we are doing for our project realisation in the coming months. In the meantime, we are working on the theoretical framework of ElMaRB already since January, and hope to present it in a few months. Stay tuned!

It’s hard to be a mayor

Riddle published a new piece by Margarita Zavadskaya titled “It’s hard to be a mayor”. In the text, Dr. Zavadskaya discusses constraints that Russian laws and regimes put on mayors’ governance in Russia, also from the point of elections.

However, adjustments must be made for the dominant form of political regime, which in Russia’s case can be termed a consolidated electoral autocracy. It is known that in such circumstances governors are forced to a certain extent to provide the requisite share of votes and increased turnout in federal elections. As municipal heads are de facto accountable to regional administrations for everything from the efficient use of funds, they also have a role to play in these electoral processes. Municipalities in Russia’s political conditions can therefore be considered an extension of the vertical of power. If this is so, then the survival of leaders at the most local level of government may also depend on election results and their success in ensuring the political loyalty of the population.

So how does political mobilisation affect local governance? Does it affect it at all? Two possible answers suggest themselves. The first is that the assistance which municipalities feasibly provide in ensuring turnout, votes, or both results in additional bonuses, access to financing and other programmes which in turn increase the budget available to local heads, giving them more room for manoeuvre. Essentially, political loyalty and budgetary autonomy are mutually reinforcing. The second answer is more pessimistic: if municipalities need to take extra efforts to ensure turnout and votes, they can potentially distract their staff, and divert their resources, away from solving pressing problems, thereby distorting the system of managerial priorities.

The work can be read both in English and in Russian.