Regime Cycles: Democracy, Autocracy, and Revolution in Post-Soviet Eurasia
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 June 2011
Research on regime change has often wound up chasing events in the post-Soviet world because it has frequently assumed that regime change, if not simple instability, implies a trajectory toward a regime-type endpoint like democracy or autocracy. A supplemental approach recognizes that regime change can be cyclic, not just progressive, regressive, or random. In fact, regime cycles are much of what we see in the postcommunist world, where some states have oscillated from autocracy toward greater democracy, then back toward more autocracy, and, with recent “colored revolutions,” toward greater democracy again. An institutional logic of elite collective action, focusing on the effects of patronalpresidentialism, is shown to be useful in understanding such cyclic dynamics, explaining why “revolutions” occurred between 2003 and 2005 in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan but not in countries like Russia, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.
- Research Article
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78 While the author was an observer for the OSCE in the Kyrgyzstan presidential election, the views expressed in this paper are those of the author only and not necessarily those of the OSCE. The OSCE final report on the election can be found at http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr-el/2005/12/17585_ en.pdf (last accessed February 19, 2006).
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81 This case shows that the elite contestation phase does not necessarily play out in the electoral arena.
82 On the Tajikistan election, see Zafar Abdullaev and Kambiz Arman, “To the Rulers, Víctory,” Transitions Online, February 28, 2005; and the OSCE'S final report, available at http://www.osce.org/ documents/html/pdftohtmi/14852_en.pdf.html (last accessed February 19, 2006).
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85 Thus, while nearly all unpopular leaders in Eurasia's patronal presidential countries attempted repressive behavior in order to win elections, we see that they were successful in doing so (maintaining the necessary elite loyalty) only when they were not lame ducks or when the chosen successor was broadly popular in his own right (for example, Putin in Russia).
86 Christensen, Rakhimkulov, and Wise (fn. 22).
87 Not just any dispersion of power will have a long-run democratizing effect, of course, since a badly designed division of authority or a muddling of authority could produce instability and a reversion to autocracy; see Paul D'Anieri, “What Has Changed in Ukrainian Politics? Assessing the Implications of the Orange Revolution,” Problems of Post-Communism 52 (September-October 2005). In Ukraine, President Yushchenko has hinted that he would like to alter the deal struck in late 2004, and many of his present and former associates have made even stronger statements to this effect, although for now elites generally expect power to be divided in the future. As D'Anieri points out, however, it is unclear at the time of this writing exactly how power will be divided. The case of Moldova's parliamentary system represents a sort of middle-ground case: its parliament elects the president. This gives the opposition greater opportunity to gain a stake in power and hence increases scope for contestation: the incumbent party lost the first parliamentary election under these rules in 2001 and the new incumbent party, seeking reelection in 2005, had to strike a deal with members of another party to stay in power. But once installed, the president has a great deal of authority to exercise power and constrain opposition, much like the Westminster system whose potentially antidemocratic effects are ably described by Horowitz, in Diamond and Plattner (fn. 13). Kyrgyzstan is presently in something of a limbo, with Bakiev having promised a diminution of presidential authority in favor of the prime minister (Kulov), but so far without this being institutionalized in an amended constitution. On these cases and issues, see Henry E. Hale, “How the Mighty Fall: The Colored Revolutions and Eurasia's Democratic Prospects” (Paper presented at the 11th annual world convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities, New York City, March 23–25, 2006).
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89 I explore some of the latter issues in Hale (fn. 87).
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