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210151 SE M9: East European Studies (2018W)

Election and Opposition: Drivers of Change and Stability in Authoritarian Regimes

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

A registration via u:space during the registration phase is required. Late registrations are NOT possible.
Students who miss the first lesson without prior notification will lose their seat in the course.

Follow the principles of good scientific practice.

The course instructor may invite students to an oral exam about the student’s written contributions in the course. Plagiarized contributions have the consequence that the course won’t be graded (instead the course will be marked with an ‘X’ in the transcript of records).


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


max. 45 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Thursday 04.10. 13:30 - 16:30 Hörsaal 1 (H1), NIG 2.Stock
Friday 05.10. 13:30 - 16:30 Hörsaal 1 (H1), NIG 2.Stock
Saturday 20.10. 09:00 - 17:00 Hörsaal 1 (H1), NIG 2.Stock
Saturday 10.11. 10:00 - 16:00 Hörsaal 1 (H1), NIG 2.Stock
Friday 07.12. 09:45 - 13:00 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 course starts with a review of literature on ‘electoral authoritarianism,’ ‘color revolutions’ and authoritarian stability. The purpose of this is to familiarize students with key theoretical approaches and debates on the role of elections in this type of context. This will entail critical engagement with academic work on how elections contribute to strengthening authoritarian regimes as well as studies focused on elections as an instrument of democratization. It will also feature research specifically problematizing the concept of ‘opposition’ and its role in autocratic consolidation processes and regime survival beyond electoral cycles.

The second part of the course is devoted to the application of the theoretical knowledge to the post-Soviet space and the cases of Azerbaijan and Belarus in particular. To this end the course provides a unique opportunity to learn about and the oscillation between hybridity and authoritarianism regime in states that after gaining independence have gone towards authoritarian consolidation rather than democratization. We will zoom in on relations between ‘opposition and state’, ‘opposition and society’ and ‘opposition and external actors’ and analyze how the dynamic of these relations can be said to have contributed to consolidation of the authoritarian regime. This will deepen the students’ knowledge about the regional and domestic political situation in Azerbaijan and Belarus and also provide an understanding of how opposition and elections in authoritarian contexts may be both a driver of stability and change. In addition the course will familiarize students with a number of useful theoretical approaches and concepts applicable to other cases in the region or similar contexts elsewhere.

The seminars will include short introductions to the topic, but build primarily on the students’ active partaking. Students are required to have completed the readings before class and come prepared to engage in seminar discussions that will take place both in small working groups and the class as a whole.

Assessment and permitted materials

To pass the course, the assignments should be successfully completed and all sessions must be attended.

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

Students have to submit two critical reviews (circa 2000 words each) over the course of the semester. For these the student must choose an article, book chapter or book from the reading list examining the author’s use of sources, the logic of their argument and make reference to relevant literature. Apart from the reviews (40%), students have write a research report (50% of grade), focused on an issue of their choice, demonstrating their advanced understanding of the course’s major topics. Finally in students will prepare a group presentation (10% of grade). The purpose is to answer to a specific question based on the readings and discussions as well as leading a discussion on the topic in the class.

Examination topics

Readings and seminar discussions.

Reading list

Reading list
Full list will be announced on Moodle.

Selected readings:
Ambrosio, T. (2014) ‘Beyond the Transition Paradigm: A Research Agenda for Authoritarian Consolidation’, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization 22: 3 (Summer): 471-495.
Bedford S. & L. Vinatier (2018), Resisting the Irresistible: ‘Failed Opposition’ in Azerbaijan and Belarus Revisited, Government and Opposition.
Blaydes, L. (2013), ‘Compliance and Resistance in Iraq under Saddam Hussein: Evidence
from the Files of the Ba ‘th Party’,Comparative Politics Workshop.
Blondel, J. (1997) ‘Political Opposition in the Contemporary World’,Government and
Opposition 32 (4): 462-486.
Brownlee, J. (2007), Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization (New York: Cambridge University Press). (selection)
Bunce, V. and S. Wolchik (2011) Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in Post Communist Countries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). (selection)
Carothers, T. (2002) ‘The End of the Transition Paradigm’, Journal of Democracy 13 (1): 45-69.
Dahl R. (ed.), Political Opposition in Western Democracies (New Haven: Yale University Press) (selection)
Gandhi, J. and A. Przeworski (2007) Authoritarian Institutions and the Survival of Autocrats,
Comparative Political Studies 40(11): 115-44.
Gerschewski, J. (2013), ‘The Three Pillars of Stability: Legitimation, Repression, and Co-
Optation in Autocratic Regimes’, Democratization 20 (1): 1338.
La Porte, J. (2015) ‘Hidden in Plain Sight: Political Opposition and Hegemonic
Authoritarianism in Azerbaijan’, Post-Soviet Affairs 31 (4): 339-366.
Lindberg, S. (ed) Democratization by Elections. A New Mode of Transition. (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press) (selection)
Lust-Okar, E. (2009), ‘Competitive clientelism in the Middle East’, Journal of Democracy 20
(3): 122-135.
Magaloni, B. (2008) ‘Credible power-sharing and the longevity of authoritarian rule’, Comp.
Polit. Stud. 41: 71541.
Schedler, A. (2013) The Politics of Uncertainty: Sustaining and Subverting Electoral Authoritarianism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (selection)
Silitski, V. (2005) ‘Preempting Democracy: The Case of Belarus’, Journal of Democracy 16 (4): 83-97.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Mo 07.09.2020 15:38