Six myths about elections and protests in autocracies

18 Nov 2020

(Riddle) Two significant public uprisings recently took place in the post-Soviet space: large-scale protests in Belarus, which began after the scandal-filled presidential elections, and the change of power in Kyrgyzstan. In this context, some observers once again recalled the “colour revolutions” while others began to extrapolate the Belarusian events onto Russia.

The “colour revolutions” as well as electoral revolutions which triggered a change of political leaders or, in some cases, a change of regime, were actively debated back in the early 2000s. The events in Georgia and Ukraine played a fatal role for the Russian civil society and political institutions: the authorities started a preventive fight against an invisible threat. By doing so, they effectively throttled the remnants of civil autonomy. In 2011–2012, a large-scale mobilisation against electoral fraud rolled out across Russia’s largest cities. To a large extent, these very protests led to further tightening of the political regime and “tightening the screws.” After 2014, the rhetoric of the “orange threat” dissolved into popular geopolitics: opposition protests lost a direct connection to the electoral agenda while federal elections no longer allow the illusion of elections that would “tip the balance.” The opposition shifted its attention to local elections. [...]

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