Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Moonlighting Politicians in Russia: Defense Capacities of Businesspeople in Regional and Local Legislatures

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Moonlighting Politicians in Russia: Defense Capacities of Businesspeople in Regional and Local Legislatures

Article excerpt

Those members of executive and legislative bodies who continue to work in the private sector after election are described as "moonlighting politicians." Numerous politicians employed in business have been documented since the mid-2000s in many electoral democracies. (1) In many countries, members of parliament are legally permitted to continue working in business after their election. Elected bodies in post-Soviet countries, including Russia, have been captured by representatives of business over the course of the past decade. (2) Public officials in the Russian regions and local communities often come from business backgrounds: for instance, business is one of the main sources for the recruitment of mayors. (3)

One might expect that the domination of the executive over the legislature in regional and local governments, (4) the weakness of civil society, and the strong authoritarian tendencies of today's Russia would significantly limit the attractiveness of regional parliaments and city councils in the eyes of citizens. The presence of businesspeople in regional and local elected bodies characterized by low power potential implies, however, that businesspeople have a good reason to enter politics: access to favorable conditions. Moonlighting politicians affiliated with business provide a way into exploring connections between benefits to business and political affiliation. Other works have shown that politically connected firms in the Russian Federal Parliament (the State Duma), as well as in Russian regional legislatures, experience a significant increase in revenue, profitability and other economic indications. (5) In developed economies (6) and states with a low level of corruption, (7) too, politically affiliated firms enjoy similar outcomes.

For Russian businesspeople, the significance of winning elected office is enhanced by widespread informality and personalism in the political life of regions and local communities. (8) However, there are as yet no empirical investigations of the number of businesspeople moving to regional and local legislative bodies in contemporary Russia, nor of their motives for doing so. Scholars have looked at business only as one source of federal elites. (9) while quantitative studies of regional elites with a business background have focused on specific regions (10) or cities of federal importance (Moscow and St. Petersburg). (11) Only a few papers use any kind of dataset to calculate the number of businesspeople among regional parliamentarians. (12)

Representatives of small and large businesses may have substantially different reasons for running for office. Among the threats potentially driving big businesses to seek the protection of political office, scholars have highlighted unsecured property rights and violent pressure on successful firms. (13) Large enterprises in some post-Soviet economies might suffer from raiding. (14) By winning a seat in a federal or regional legislature, large companies provide themselves with the privileges to secure loans, get access to finance, and ensure favorable treatment (15) (favorable laws and regulations, for example). (16) In sum, the presence of corporate representatives among the ranks of politicians is due less to a desire for survival or protection from the "bad" state and more to the potential for rent-seeking and state capture that political positions offer.

Due to the higher vulnerability of small and medium-size firms, the political affiliation of entrepreneurs in Russian communities forms an important subject of socio-economic studies of business survival. The present study of small and medium-size entrepreneurs with political connections reveals the uncertainty, complexity, and gravity of coping with the Russian state and its agents on the ground. The literature on Russian entrepreneurship is focused on street-level corruption and everyday resistance to bureaucracy. (17) There is empirical evidence of new challenges to contemporary Russian entrepreneurship that are particularly acute for small business: overregulation of the state and of the market (18) and increasing pressure from law enforcement agencies. …

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