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Political Strategies for Conducting Unpopular Reforms in Authoritarian Regimes (the Case of Pension Reform in Russia and Belarus)

Student: Elizaveta Beliaeva

Supervisor: Elena Vandysheva

Faculty: Saint-Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Area Studies

Educational Programme: Political Science (Bachelor)

Year of Graduation: 2019

What allows authoritarian leaders to carry out unpopular reforms? This paper aims to characterize the mechanisms that are used to conduct unpopular policies in authoritarian regimes. Based on the assumptions of the theory of political strategies, it is suggested that authoritarian leaders use special political strategies to avoid punishment for unpopular policies and to convince voters of the need for reform. To confirm this assumption, two unpopular initiatives to raise the retirement age in Russia and Kazakhstan were studied. A detailed analysis of the decision-making process was presented, as well as communication that was built by politicians around raising the retirement age. As a result, it was found that authoritarian leaders also use political strategies for conducting unpopular reforms. In particular, such strategies as framing, discourse and circle the wagons were used in Russia, and framing and find a scapegoat were used in Kazakhstan.

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