Defining and Domesticating the Electoral Model: A Comparison of Slovakia and Serbia

Working Paper

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CDDRL Working Papers

May 2006

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The transitions to democracy in the postcommunist region over the past decade and one-half share a common dynamic, featuring the interaction between two sets of factors. The first is the long-term development of both civil society and a liberal opposition. The second is more short-term: an expansion of international support for regime change, clear demonstration by mass publics that they reject incumbent illiberal regimes (through protests and voting), and the victory of the liberal opposition in competitive elections. Successful democratization in the postcommunist world, therefore, seems to rest upon mass mobilization, a supportive international environment, and a sharp break with the authoritarian past, rather than the model that emerged in Spain and parts of Latin America; that is, a largely domestic dynamic combining bargaining between incumbent and opposition elites and elections and policies in the early stages of transition that bridged the old and the new order.

This paper primarily deals with later postcommunist transitions to democracy. In particular, we compare the decisive turn to democratic politics in Slovakia in 1998 with a similar dramatic political turn in Serbia in 2000. Such a comparison is instructive because of the importance of the model of democratization that was developed and applied in these cases, and because of the insights these two countries offer as a consequence of variations in both political-economic context and the nature of their electoral revolutions.

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