In the last decade and a half, the ousters of numerous national leaders and mass street protests in Eurasian and Middle Eastern capitals have taken scholars and policymakers by surprise. Political outcomes are challenging to predict, but by examining events in Kyrgyzstan in 2005 and 2010 and Ukraine in 2004 and 2013, we can see that attention to subnational influences helps. By introducing new leadership or reviving civil society, these events create political openings for greater democracy. By improving their ability to anticipate such events, local and foreign activists and policymakers could be better prepared to take advantage of these openings.
Events outside of national capitals can be precursors and facilitators of national political openings. They can be precursors in the sense that they contribute to later national upheavals. Subnational precursors include early local protests, framing of demands, local elite defection, and local election fraud. Other subnational developments, such as simultaneous local protests and the recruitment and movement of protestors, are facilitators of national political openings. These subnational developments do not precede extraordinary events in the capital but coincide with them and help fuel them. Monitoring concurrent subnational developments may help indicate when events in the capital will escalate into national political openings.