Democratization by Elections? Postcommunist Ambiguities

Issue Date July 2009
Volume 20
Issue 3
Page Numbers 93-107
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In the Balkans and the countries of the old Eastern Bloc, the years from 1996 to 2009 saw no fewer than fourteen major attempts to oust semiauthoritarian regimes by means of elections. Eight of these attempts actually toppled authoritarian leaders, bringing to power more-democratic political forces. In the remainder the opposition mounted a strong electoral challenge to dictatorial rule, but failed to secure victory. In order to tease out the relationship between elections and democratic development, we compare various political and economic aspects of the successful and unsuccessful cases. Yet where structural and institutional factors cannot fully explain why some elections brought down dictators and others did not, two variables that may prove more telling: regime vulnerability and the implementation of what we term the electoral model of democratization.

About the Authors

Valerie J. Bunce

Valerie J. Bunce is the Aaron Binenkorb Professor of International Studies and professor of government at Cornell University.

View all work by Valerie J. Bunce

Sharon Wolchik

Sharon L. Wolchik is professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and coauthor (with Valerie J. Bunce) of Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in Postcommunist Countries (2011).

View all work by Sharon Wolchik