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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Consolidation of Democracy in Postcommunist Europe


Most of the scholarship on the political transformations in Central and Eastern Europe focuses on explaining the fall of communist regimes and democratic transition. To complement this research, the present paper turns attention to the political developments after 1989 and is among the first attempts to quantitatively assess which factors have contributed to the speed and extent of democratic consolidation among the most advanced postcommunist states. We argue that political transformations in Central and Eastern Europe should be viewed as part and parcel of broad-scale changes whereby democratization is intertwined with concurrent social transformations, and influenced by transnational forces. Using originally collected data for 11 most advanced transition countries for the period from 1990 to 2002, we find that democratic consolidation is facilitated after the country has signed the European Union association agreement, when the governments in power have a pro-reform orientation, and when higher electoral thresholds are put in place to aid political party affiliation and stability. In addition, nationalism in countries with sizable ethnic minority populations impedes democratic consolidation. While other researchers strongly emphasize the importance of economic development for democracy, our study finds little support for the influence of GDP per capita levels on the speed of democratic consolidation. Overall, these results substantiate the institutional rather than modernization perspe ctive on political development in postcommunism.

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