In countries where citizens have strong grievances against the regime,
attempts to address these grievances in the course of daily life are
likely to entail high costs coupled with very low chances of success in
any meaningful sense; consequently, most citizens will choose not to
challenge the regime, thus reflecting the now well-known collective action
problem. When a regime commits electoral fraud, however, an
individual's calculus regarding whether to participate in a protest
against the regime can be changed significantly. This argument yields
important implications for how we interpret the wave of “colored
revolutions” that swept through Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, and
Kyrgyzstan in the first half of this decade. Applying the collective
action framework to the colored revolutions also yields a parsimonious
contribution to the political science literature on social protest:
electoral fraud can be a remarkably useful tool for solving the collective
action problems faced by citizens in countries where governments are not,
to use Barry Weingast's language, appropriately restrained by the
populace. While modest, such an observation actually can speak to a
wide-ranging number of questions in the literature, including why people
choose to protest when they do, how protests at one place and time can
affect the likelihood for future protests, and new aspects of the
relationship between elections and protest.
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