Caught Between Two Transitions: How Electoral Volatility and Economic Voting Affected the Democratization of Central Eastern Europe

Open Access
Author:
Rogers, Benjamin Harrison
Area of Honors:
International Politics
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Sona Nadenichek Golder, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Eastern Europe
  • Electoral Volatility
  • Comparative Politics
  • Economic Voting
  • Communism
  • European Union
Abstract:
In the years immediately succeeding the fall of communism, the road towards democratization in many Central Eastern European countries was met with a joint effort of economic transition and democratic consolidation. The economic volatility associated with structural economic reform coincided with high rates of electoral volatility. Despite the stabilization of national economies and the aging of these newer democracies, electoral volatility in Central Eastern Europe has persisted. This paper seeks to identify which factors help lead to these sustained rates of high electoral volatility over time and to determine whether or not these trends will persist. This paper contends that high rates of retrospective economic voting primarily contribute to electoral volatility, but anticipate that these trends will diminish over time as new sociocultural cleavages will become politicized. Ten countries across Central Eastern Europe were studied between the years of 1989 and 2014 to assess the impacts that GDP growth rates, national unemployment rates, and inflation have on the changes in incumbent vote share from election to election. The results indicate that retrospective economic voting occurs within Central Eastern European democracies, the relationship of retrospective economic voting has strengthened over time, and that the communist legacies of unemployment-phobia have weakened.