City managers are winning

On 4 May, the Centre for Comparative History and Political Studies hosted a lecture by Pavel Kononenko titled “City managers are winning. The reform of local government in the conditions of regime transformation.”

  • Pavel Kononenko - Senior Lecturer, Department for Problems of Interdisciplinary Synthesis in the Field of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Pavel Kononenko presented the results of a research project focusing on the local government reform in Russia, which has started in 2003. According to this reform, a local city legislature or local citizens on a referendum can choose the model of executive power for a city: direct elections of a mayor (1), direct elections of a mayor, who becomes a head of a local parliament, plus the independent post of a city manager who is head of the executive power in a city (2), and the model where a mayor is chosen by members of parliament plus the independent post of a city manager acting as head of the executive power (3). According to Kononenko, most research projects which are concerned with this particular local government reform, were trying to identify the factors of reform implementation. Therefore, the typical study sample included cities or towns, which were usually divided into two groups: cities retained the direct election of a mayor and cities which refused doing that.

However, Kononenko emphasized that after the approval of new amendments to the Federal Law “About general principles of the organization of local self-government in the Russian Federation“ in 2014 the question of acceptance of a new institution for Russia called “city manager” was not on the agenda, as the acceptance of it by the local legislature was predetermined. By 2015, only 8 regional capitals out of 85 (a region is a subject of the Russian Federation) have not accepted a city manager. In this situation, the time during which the reform is going to be approved seems to be more relevant for research purposes. Due to that, the research question, according to Kononenko, should be formulated like this: “when will the reform be carried out?” Thus, the time during which a local government approves the reform in each region was the subject of analysis, and the goal of the research project was to identify factors that contributed or prevented the implementation of a city manager in a regional capital.

According to the logic of the research question, Kononenko had chosen one of the types of «survival analysis» – proportional hazards regression, also called Cox regression. Following the rules of this method, Kononenko chose independent and dependent variables. The dependent variable was the “risk” of the implementation of a city manager. It was measured through the length of time that has passed from the approval of the reform to the implementation of the new Institution of a city manager in a regional capital. As independent variables were chosen: distance – the geographical remoteness of the regional capital from Moscow (1), the region's dependence on subsidies (2), turnover of mayors (3), the effective number of parties (Eff N) among the regional electorate in the federal elections in 2007 (4) and Eff N in a regional parliament (5). The result of analysis showed that all independent variables are statistically significant, but not equal. In addition, not all the initial assumptions about the nature of the relationship between the dependent and independent variables were correct. For instance “Eff N in a regional parliament” unlike “Eff N 2007”, has had a positive impact on the risk of the implementation of a city manager.

The main conclusion of the study was that the further geographically, economically and politically was a regional capital from the federal government and the greater was the fragmentation of the regional and local political elite, the lower was the risk of the implementation of a city manager.