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Abstract

Recent research highlights the democratizing impact of breakthrough elections in postcommunist Eurasia, some of which have been accompanied by the so-called color revolutions. Because elections expand opportunities for civil society organization and contentious politics, scholars have noted improvements in democracy procedures and accountability in those countries where breakthrough elections produced government turnover. Drawing on evidence from Croatia, Serbia, Moldova, and Georgia, this paper investigates the extent to which individual breakthrough elections contributed to democratic development. While these countries have experienced overall democratic progress, improvements in some areas, such as civil society development, the autonomy of media outlets, and electoral processes, have been less robust than one would expect. Contrary to the conclusions of previous studies that the uneven democratization process in these countries is the result of longer-term structural conditions, this analysis shows how elite decisions can be critical in shaping structural conditions and governance trajectories.