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210148 SE M9: East European Studies (2019W)

Election and Opposition in Authoritarian States

9.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 21 - Politikwissenschaft
Continuous assessment of course work

Eine Anmeldung über u:space innerhalb der Anmeldephase ist erforderlich! Eine nachträgliche Anmeldung ist NICHT möglich.
Studierende, die der ersten Einheit unentschuldigt fern bleiben, verlieren ihren Platz in der Lehrveranstaltung.

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Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first serve).


max. 40 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Thursday 03.10. 13:15 - 16:30 Hörsaal 2 (H2), NIG 2.Stock
Saturday 19.10. 09:00 - 14:00 Hörsaal 1 (H1), NIG 2.Stock
Saturday 09.11. 09:00 - 14:00 Hörsaal 2 (H2), NIG 2.Stock
Saturday 23.11. 09:00 - 14:00 Hörsaal 2 (H2), NIG 2.Stock
Saturday 14.12. 09:00 - 14:00 Hörsaal 2 (H2), NIG 2.Stock


Aims, contents and method of the course

To have an opportunity to choose their representatives in decision-making assemblies is usually seen as the ultimate symbol of democracy. In this regard the presence of a political alternative, e.g. ‘opposition,’ is important, if not crucial. The roles of both elections and opposition in non-democratic contexts, however, have proven to be different from those in democracies. This course explores what role(s) these institutions play in non-democracies and how this deviation affects regime stability or change.

The aim of the course is to develop the students’ knowledge about the roles and functions of opposition and elections in the post-Soviet states and provide them tools to independently analyze and evaluate ongoing developments in the area. During the seminar the students will problematize these complex dynamics using various social science concepts and theories. This entails critical engagement with academic approaches and debates on how elections contribute to strengthening authoritarian regimes as well as studies focused on elections as an instrument of democratization. It also features research specifically problematizing the concept of ‘opposition’ and its role in autocratic consolidation processes and regime survival beyond electoral cycles. The seminar provides the students’ with a better understanding of the relations between ‘opposition and state’, ‘opposition and society’ and ‘opposition and external actors’ in authoritarian states and the impact of these relations on regime change or consolidation. Additionally it will deepen their general knowledge about the regional and domestic political situation in the post-Soviet context.

The seminar will mainly consist of discussions and exercises in small working groups, and sometimes in the class as a whole, with the purpose of supporting the students to reflect and elaborate on the content of the literature. Prior to each session the students are provided a number of mandatory texts and different tasks in order to prepare for class.

Assessment and permitted materials

The seminar builds on the students’ active partaking. They are required to have completed the readings before class and come prepared to engage in the activities of each session. The final grade will reflect active participation (10% of the grade). It also includes three written assignments over the course of the semester á 1000-2000 words (each 20% of the grade) in different ways demonstrating the student’s understanding of the course’s major topics. Finally, students will prepare a presentation (30% of grade) in which they will explore a specific question based on the seminar’s readings and activities and lead a discussion on the topic in class.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

To pass the course all the written assignments should be successfully completed. Active participation in the seminar is required. According to faculty policy all sessions must be attended.

Examination topics

Readings and seminar discussions.

Reading list

Selected readings (full list will be announced on Moodle):

Ash, K. (2015) The Election Trap: the Cycle of Post-Electoral Repression and Opposition Fragmentation in Lukashenko's Belarus,” Democratization 22 (6): 1-24
Ambrosio, T. (2014) ‘Beyond the Transition Paradigm: A Research Agenda for Authoritarian Consolidation’, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 22 (3): 471-495.
Bedford S. & L. Vinatier (2018), ‘Resisting the Irresistible: ‘Failed Opposition’ in Azerbaijan and Belarus Revisited’, Government and Opposition.
Bunce, V. and S. Wolchik (2011) Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in Post Communist Countries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Gerschewski, J. (2013), ‘The Three Pillars of Stability: Legitimation, Repression, and Co-
Optation in Autocratic Regimes’, Democratization 20 (1): 13–38.
Grodsky, B. (2012) "Co-optation or Empowerment? The Fate of Pro-democracy NGOs after the Rose Revolution." Europe-Asia Studies 64 (9): 1684-1708.
Iskandaryan, A. (2018) ‘The Velvet Revolution in Armenia: How to Lose Power in Two Weeks. Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 26 (4): 465-482.
Lindberg, S. (ed) Democratization by Elections. A New Mode of Transition. (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press)
Lust-Okar, E. (2009), ‘Competitive Clientelism in the Middle East’, Journal of Democracy 20
Matsiyevsky, Y. (2018) ‘Revolution without Regime Change: The Evidence from the post-Euromaidan Ukraine.’ Communist and Post-Communist Studies 51(4): 349-359.
(3): 122-135.
Schedler, A. (ed) (2006) Electoral Authoritarianism, The Dynamics of Unfree Elections,
(Lynne Rienner).
Silitski, V. (2005) ‘Preempting Democracy: The Case of Belarus’, Journal of Democracy 16 (4): 83-97.
Way, L. (2008): ‘The Real Causes of the Color Revolutions’, Journal of Democracy 19(3): 55-69.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:21