EUSP Political Science and Sociology Department graduate and research fellow Margarita Zavadskaya defended her PhD dissertation at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence on September 15, 2017. The dissertation was titled: "When Elections Subvert Authoritarianism Failed Cooptation and Russian Post-Electoral Protests of 2011-12".

We congratulate Margarita on her successful defense and PhD in Political Science degree.

Read more about Margarita Zavadskaya’s dissertation here.

Despite the overwhelming control maintained over representative institutions in non-democratic political regimes, some elections and referendums seem to have gotten out of hand. The wave of “color revolutions” (Serbia, Georgia, Kyrgyztan), the referendum failure (Chile), and ruptures within dominant-party systems (PRI in Mexico, KMT in Taiwan) are striking instances of the unintended or unanticipated consequences of “authoritarian” institutions. I endeavor to turn this query into my research question, which may be formulated as follows: when do elections support autocratic rule and when do they play the role of “subversive institution”? When and why does the incumbent turn out to be unable to control the political situation? In my research I would like to look into the conditions under which institutions play a supportive role and under which they produce anti-hegemonic outcomes.

I argue that there is room for further analysis of the “stabilizing versus subversive” conditions as there is still considerable variation in the outcomes among the regimes that are institutionally able to have electoral competition, even while they are “unfree” and are systematically violated. Figure 1 represents the variation of the rate of electoral failure in 321 competitive legislative and executive elections across 71 non-democratic regimes in 21 years. Out of 188 legislative elections, 22 were unambiguously lost by the incumbent’s party; the rate of electoral failure among the executive elections is almost the same – 29 out of 142. Excluding closed authoritarian regimes, hybrid and electoral democracies, there is still a significant variation in electoral outcomes. This variation cannot be attributed solely to the type of political regime or the level of competition; rather, other factors must be at play.

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