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Elite- or mass-driven democratic consolidation? Western Balkans in comparative perspective

Stojanova, Ana (2013) Elite- or mass-driven democratic consolidation? Western Balkans in comparative perspective. Advisor: Morlino, Prof. Leonardo. Coadvisor: Cavallaro, Dr. Maria Elena . pp. 234. [IMT PhD Thesis]

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Since the fall of the communist regime in the beginning of the 1990s, Western Balkan states (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia) have been striving to build democratic governments, market economies and pluralist societies. Although certain progress has been made, more than two decades later the Western Balkan states are still ‘stuck’ in an extended form of democratic transition, and as such are labeled as ‘hybrid’ or ‘semi-consolidated’ regimes. In contrast, most of the other post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have displayed greater success in institutionalizing democratic pluralism, and have hence consolidated their democracies at a much faster pace. Taking the actor-based approach as a point of departure in explaining democratic consolidation, the aim of this dissertation is to empirically examine what are the effects of citizens’ participation and elite contestation on the advancement of the fragile Western Balkans democracies. By employing a time-series cross-section statistical model, I statistically assess the effects of citizens’ political participation and party competition on the democracy levels in Central and Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. However, the focus of my research interest is primarily on the Western Balkan states, while the CEE EU member states serve just as a term of comparison. Weak participation in politics by ordinary citizens in the new European democracies is considered to be one of the main causes of the peculiar practices of illiberal democracy in these countries. However, I argue that while low levels of citizens’ participation leads to hollow or stagnant democracy in most democratic systems, higher levels of civic engagement is not necessarily an indication for better democracy in post-communist Europe. The statistical test confirms that indeed there is a strong negative and statistically significant correlation between all four types of political participation examined in this study (voter turnout, party membership, signing petitions and attending demonstrations) and the levels of democracy when controlled for the Western Balkan region. I contend that clientelist practices that are widely spread in the Western Balkans account for this relationship. The relationship between political competition and the levels of democracy in the Western Balkans occupies the second part of my thesis. The empirical data reveals that CEE EU member states score higher in almost all dimensions of political competition compared to the Western Balkans. At the same time their party systems seem to be less institutionalized, more volatile, less distinguishable along ideological stances, as well as fragmented and ethnically polarized. Taking this into consideration, I argue that enhancing political competition would provide an impetus to the democratic development in the post-communist countries in Europe, including the Western Balkans. The large-N statistical test basically confirms this hypothesis. I consider three factors as most accountable for having the Western Balkan states unsuccessful in developing more robust political competition compared to their post-communist neighbors. These are: absence of an organized opposition to the former political order in the first years of their democratic transition, strong ethnic cleavage and party corruption.

Item Type: IMT PhD Thesis
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
PhD Course: Political Science and Institutional Change
Identification Number: 10.6092/imtlucca/e-theses/125
NBN Number: urn:nbn:it:imtlucca-27158
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2014 10:03
URI: http://e-theses.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/125

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