Reclaiming Democracy: Civil Society and Electoral Change in Central and Eastern Europe

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Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš, Editors
Civil Society and Electoral Change
in Central and Eastern Europe
Postcommunism, with its exaggerated emphasis
on the power of the economy, politics, law
enforcement, justice and the media, can be seen,
to some extent, as echoing the communist period.
The patience of people has been enormous, but
not without limits. Fortunately, the ethos of the
anti-communist revolutions of 1989 and 1990,
the natural self-organization of civil society and the
international context made a return to totalitarianism
impossible. Sooner or later, the situation in various
postcommunist countries ripened into civic protest
against the new abuses of power.
From the preface by Václav Havel
Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš, Editors

Reclaiming Democracy

Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš, Editors
Civil Society and Electoral Change
in Central and Eastern Europe

Copyright © 2007 by The German Marshall Fund of the United States
and Individual Authors
The opinions expressed in this book are those of individual authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the authors’ affi liation.
Published by
The German Marshall Fund of the United States
1744 R St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
All Rights Reserved
Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Forbrig, Joerg, and Pavol Demeš (eds.)
Reclaiming Democracy. Civil Society and Electoral Change
in Central and Eastern Europe
p. cm.
ISBN 978 – 80 – 969639 – 0 – 4
Printed in the Slovak Republic

Václav Havel 7
Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš 9
Martin Bútora 21
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić 53
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta 79
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze 101
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov 127
Vitali Silitski 155
Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig 175
Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik 191
Robin Shepherd 205
Taras Kuzio 217
Ivan Krastev 235


Václav Havel
The epochal social changes that took place in Central and Eastern Europe in the
1980s and 1990s opened an avenue for millions of Europeans to live a dignifi ed life
in liberty and democracy after decades under communism. Free elections, human
rights, civic liberties, the rule of law, as well as economic transformation and an
independent foreign policy were high on the agenda of all newly formed democratic
Yet while the formal establishment of democracy typically took only a matter of days,
weeks or, at most, months, real democracy did not emerge easily. It is, indeed, an
ongoing process, one that has not been completed even now. New generations,
without the burdensome experience of life under totalitarianism, are only now
emerging into adulthood. These new generations are only gradually moving into
positions in the decision making process in their countries. The situation in countries
that overcame communist dictatorship, and the various problems and obstacles
they experience on their way to democracy, is called postcommunism.
For long decades under communist rule, private property was not permitted, having
been forcibly nationalized in dramatic circumstances after World War II. Similarly,
public offi ce was accessible only to those linked to the governing ideology. Thus,
the communist regime effectively destroyed the legacies of the older political
and entrepreneurial classes, after generations that had developed a sense of
responsibility for private property and respect for the rule of law.
Hence, for the democratic governments newly formed after 1989, the renewal
of a state fi rmly rooted in the rule of law and the enactment of an economic
transformation process based on privatization were standard, but nevertheless,
complicated tasks. The massive redistribution of property not only corrected some
of the previous excesses, it also created tempting opportunities for a variety of
economic adventurers. While new governments struggled to ensure the functioning
of basic constitutional principles and the integration of their countries with the
international community, the former nomenclatura used their experience, resources
and contacts to their own advantage. They adapted to the new situation very quickly,
taking positions in politics and the economy, justice and law enforcement, and
the media, all the while retaining the networks they had inherited from the past.
Strong social pressure for swift change meant that legislation was prepared and
approved without suffi cient time for testing it out in practice. As a result, economic
transformation often took place in uncertain and imperfect legal circumstances.

Postcommunism, with its exaggerated emphasis on the power of the economy,
politics, law enforcement, justice and the media, can be seen, to some extent, as
echoing the communist period. Newly formed mafi as have often enough simply
replaced the old communist authorities, not uncommonly brandishing nationalist
fl ags and slogans. The patience of people has been enormous, but is not without
limits. Fortunately, the ethos of the anti-communist revolutions of 1989 and 1990,
the natural self-organization of civil society and the international context made
a return to totalitarianism impossible. Sooner or later, the situation in various
postcommunist countries ripened into civic protest against the new abuses of
power. But, in each country this development took a different path and, therefore,
one should not equate developments in Slovakia with those in Serbia or Georgia.
I am delighted that this book is dedicated to the role of civil society in rising up
against postcommunism. In my opinion, it is an injustice that these revolutions have
not received their due share of attention, but have often remained in the shadow of
those that preceded them in 1989 and 1990.
Washington, January 2007

Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš
Slovakia, September 1998: Parliamentary elections see the governing coalition of
Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, criticized domestically and internationally for his
backsliding on democracy and isolationist policies, challenged by an alliance of
opposition parties stressing their democratic and European aspirations. An energetic
and polarized political campaign is accompanied by a broad effort of civil society
groups to provide voters with information about the elections, to encourage their
participation and to monitor the electoral process. A neck-and-neck race ensues.
Eventually, 84 percent of voters turn out, and in an electoral competition deemed
fair by the international community, the populist-nationalist Mečiar government
is replaced by a democratic coalition government, under Prime Minister Mikuláš
Croatia, January 2000: Parliamentary elections take place, ousting the Croatian
Democratic Union of the recently deceased President Franjo Tuđman, whose
nationalist and semi-authoritarian politics dominated the country since independence
in 1990. In a civic coalition for free and fair elections, nongovernmental organizations
rally voters for democratic change, provide election-related information and motivate
citizens to cast their votes en masse. 75 percent of voters turn out on the day. In
parallel, long-divided democratic opposition parties form two coalitions that win the
elections and take offi ce under Prime Minister Ivica Račan.
Serbia, September 2000: Through early presidential elections, nationalist strongman
Slobodan Milošević attempts to prolong his rule, but is successfully challenged by
Vojislav Koštunica, candidate of the newly united Democratic Opposition of Serbia.
A broad civil society coalition provides voter information, calls on citizens to go
to the polls and ensures election monitoring, while a youth resistance movement
campaigns against Milošević’s quasi-dictatorship and demands democratic change.
After the ballot is clearly manipulated in Milošević’s favor, protests break out and
hundreds of thousands take to the streets, eventually forcing Milošević to resign
and bringing the democratic opposition to power under President Koštunica, a result
confi rmed by a landslide victory in parliamentary elections two months later.
Georgia, November 2003: The “For a New Georgia” bloc of incumbent President Eduard
Shevardnadze, whose ten-year rule has increasingly led Georgia into political, social
and economic crisis, is declared victorious in parliamentary elections. Suspicions
of massive electoral fraud abound and are substantiated by independent election
monitors. Over the days following the ballot, the political opposition, civil society
and youth groups stage increasingly powerful street protests that reach their height

when protesters peacefully interrupt the opening session of the new parliament. As
a result of what soon comes to be known as the Rose Revolution, Shevardnadze
resigns and new elections are held for both the parliament and the presidency. The
democratic opposition under Mikheil Saakashvili wins overwhelming victories and
Saakashvili is confi rmed as president.
Ukraine, November 2004: Presidential elections are held to determine Leonid
Kuchma’s successor. Kuchma’s presidency has led Ukraine increasingly away from
democracy. His designated successor, Viktor Yanukovych, is challenged by Viktor
Yushchenko, the joint candidate of the united democratic opposition. To ensure a
democratic electoral process, civil society groups carry out various campaigns to
provide information, encourage a high turnout and monitor the electoral process,
while youth groups publicly demand political change. The offi cial result of the run-off
gives Yanukovych a clear lead, but is contested by election monitors who provide
evidence of massive manipulations of the ballot. In response, the democratic
opposition and civil society groups mount month-long protests that bring hundreds
of thousands onto the streets of Kyiv. Under the pressure of the Orange Revolution,
the Supreme Court eventually orders repeat elections. Viktor Yushchenko becomes
the new president.
Reclaiming Democracy through Elections
The sequence of events that has swept through Central and Eastern Europe in recent
years is remarkable. What initially seemed to be individual incidents of democratic
re-adjustment in Slovakia and Croatia expanded into a series of spectacular political
transformations in countries as diverse as Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. A pattern
emerged that has been variously labeled “color revolutions”, “transitions from
postcommunism” or “electoral breakthroughs”. Some observers have gone further
and have framed these developments as a “fourth wave of democracy”.
1 And, while
observers may differ in the terminology they employ, the details of their analyses
and in their overall assessments of the events, they typically agree on a number of
characteristics common to these recent democratic changes and the situations in
the countries where they took place.
First and foremost, all these countries underwent initial democratic reform in the early
1990s. Once communism had collapsed, they established the basic institutions of
democracy and held competitive elections. Constitutions were drafted, enshrining
fundamental civil and political liberties, and fi rst moves were made towards the
development of the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Political parties
1 See, among many others, Michael McFaul, “Transitions from Postcommunism”, Journal
of Democracy, vol. 16, no. 3 (July 2005), pp. 5-19.; and “The Fourth Wave of Democracy and
Dictatorship: Compromise and Noncooperative Transitions in the Postcommunist World,” World
Politics, vol. 54, no. 2 (January 2002), pp. 212-244.

emerged and refl ected social pluralism and differing views, as did rapidly developing
civil society structures and independent media. Market principles were introduced
and privatization started to transform the economy. Thus, embarking on multiple
political, economic and social transitions, hopes were high that Slovakia and Croatia,
Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, along with their other neighbors in Central and Eastern
Europe, would quickly come to resemble western liberal democracies and integrate
with European and international structures.
These expectations were soon frustrated, however. War broke out in the former
Yugoslavia and shattered democratic hopes. Reforms stalled in Slovakia, Georgia
and Ukraine, and within a few years many moves towards democracy were reversed.
Although they were brought to offi ce in free and fair elections, the governments
of Mečiar, Tuđman, Milošević, Shevardnadze and Kuchma began to disregard
democratic principles and to manipulate fl edgling institutions in order to consolidate
their power. Over time, executive pressure was systematically broadened to affect any
realm that could ensure democratic checks and balances, from political opponents,
parties and institutions, to the independent media and civil society organizations.
All manner of state resources, from legal changes to administrative procedures to
security apparatuses, were employed to silence dissent, while corrupt privatization
practices served to solidify the economic status quo in favor of the ruling elites.
Within a few years, democracy had become a façade, a veil for political regimes that
were increasingly authoritarian in nature.
Although dubious in their democratic credentials, leaders in the fi ve countries still
felt the need to justify and legitimize their actions before the public. For this purpose,
one mechanism was strong nationalist rhetoric, arguing that newly independent
countries needed to consolidate and fend off domestic and foreign threats, for which
a strong center of power, rather than dispersed democratic politics, were required.
This reasoning resonated with many, as all these countries had only just emerged
from the larger and multi-ethnic Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Soviet Union, and
provided a considerable social foundation for non-democratic politics in the fi ve
countries, although one that could be expected to weaken over time, as statehood
was less and less in question.
Elections were regularly held in the fi ve countries, in order to draw legitimacy from
within and international acceptance from without, and even regularly confi rmed the
support base within society for the “strong leadership” approach. But, while Mečiar
and Milošević, Tuđman and Shevardnadze had originally come to offi ce through free
and fair elections, they grew increasingly uncertain of the support they could muster
in society and started to manipulate subsequent ballots, using biased coverage
in government-controlled media, changed election laws to sideline the political
opposition and, ultimately, fully-fl edged electoral fraud.
Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš

But, despite their increasingly far-reaching and aggressive attempts to control
power, political leaders in the fi ve countries never managed to fully subdue their
societies. Several realms remained outside the control of the state, embodying
important “islands of democracy”. These included a political opposition that, while
often divided, remained present and visible in both national and local politics.
Elements of independent, usually commercial, media existed that could, at least
in part, counter the propaganda of state-controlled broadcasters and newspapers.
Parts of the business community came to see rampant corruption and cronyism as
liabilities and readied resources for political change. Civil society groups became
increasingly vocal in addressing democratic defi cits in their countries. Segments of
society, especially the younger, urban and educated among them, grew more and
more critical of the social situation in their countries, domestic politics and their
international isolation.
In the fi ve countries, the temptation of incumbent governments to grab for power,
their need for legitimacy and the survival of democratic pockets within in their
societies, were cross-pressures that resulted in settings that can be characterized
as both authoritarian and democratic. Analysts have described such regimes
variously as “semi-autocratic” or “neo-authoritarian” and as “illiberal” or “phony”
2 This hybrid nature, however, encapsulated the central weakness of
these regimes, as authoritarianism and democracy are essentially irreconcilable.
The hybridity of these regimes eventually led to their downfall through elections, the
most democratic of means.
What ensued in the fi ve countries was a very similar sequence of events. A semi-
autocratic government prepared for elections in order to gain renewed legitimacy, yet
was challenged by declining public support and a united opposition that successfully
portrayed the elections as a referendum on the principal status quo in the country.
Through independent media, and supported by civil society activities aimed at
voter information and mobilization, this fundamental choice was addressed to the
public at large, resulting in an above-average turnout, especially among classical
change voters, such as younger, urban and educated people. Defensive government
attempts to manipulate the elections in its favor were either limited by the presence
of independent election monitors, as in Slovakia and Croatia, or disclosed to the
voting public, which came onto the streets en masse to protest election fraud, as in
Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. Democratic challengers ultimately prevailed over semi-
autocratic incumbents and took offi ce.
2 Analyses and characterizations along these lines have been proposed by, among others, Fareed
Zakaria, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy”, Foreign Affairs, vol. 76, no. 6 (November-December
1997), pp. 22-43; and Lucan A. Way, “The Sources and Dynamics of Competitive Authoritarianism
in Ukraine”, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, vol. 20, no. 1 (March 2004),
pp. 143-161.

Yet, in order for this scenario to succeed and to return hybrid regimes to a more
democratic path of development, as witnessed in the fi ve countries, a number of
conditions had to be present. Crucially, these included an unpopular incumbent
leader and government, a united opposition, independent election monitoring, at
least some independent media and sources of objective information and a potential
for mass mobilization. Other factors, such as splits within the security apparatus,
the availability of local resources and foreign support and pressure or incentives
from the international community, were also observed.
The Contributions to this Book
An important factor affecting the constellation for change was the involvement of civil
society. Be it through election monitoring or the supply of independent information,
get-out-the-vote activities or the mobilization of citizens in protest against rigged
elections, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, youth groups and many
other civic initiatives engaged in pre-election projects and campaigns and made a
notable contribution to reclaiming democracy. It is for this reason that this book is
dedicated to a more detailed account and analysis of civil society’s role in effecting
democratic change in Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine in recent
The fi rst part of the book provides a panorama of the civil society efforts, pre-election
campaigns and civic movements that emerged in the fi ve countries. It brings together
case studies from the fi ve countries, contributed by key activists, themselves
involved in the civic projects described and who, therefore, are in a position to share
unique and intimate knowledge of the development, approach and effects of civil
society activities before and during the critical elections. These insider accounts
place an emphasis on authenticity, rather than on scholarly analysis, and in their
focus on specifi c groups and campaigns, they should be seen as representative of
the broader range of civil society actions that contributed to democratic change in
the countries concerned.
The case study series is opened by Martin Bútora, who examines the Civic Campaign
OK ‘98 that took place in Slovakia. In response to the growing neo-authoritarianism
of successive governments under Vladimír Mečiar, and in parallel to coalition-building
on the part of the democratic opposition, civil society joined forces and launched
this nonpartisan campaign in the run-up to the 1998 parliamentary elections. As a
country-wide concerted action with a focus on informing citizens about the elections,
encouraging them to vote and providing for civic oversight of the election process,
3 See Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik, “Favorable Conditions and Electoral Revolutions”,
Journal of Democracy, vol. 17, no. 4 (October 2006), pp. 5-18.; Michael McFaul, “Transitions from
Postcommunism”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 16, no. 3 (July 2005), pp. 5-19.
Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš

this project not only helped to return Slovakia to democracy, but it set an important
example, soon to be followed by civic activists in other postcommunist countries.
Among the fi rst to draw on the Slovak experience were civil society groups in Croatia,
as is detailed by Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić in their chapter on the GLAS 99
campaign. Political and social discontent with President Tuđman had grown to such
an extent that democratic change seemed possible through the parliamentary
elections in January 2000. If such change did eventually materialize, this also owed
to civil society taking a stronger role in changing the public discourse, and launching
an election-related information and mobilization effort focusing on a few key target
groups, including young voters, women and pensioners. In so doing, GLAS 99 helped
to overcome the culture of fear that kept voices of dissent from speaking out against
the political and social injustices of Croatia’s semi-autocratic regime.
Developments in Slovakia and Croatia, and the role of civic campaigns pressing for
democratic elections, inspired similar efforts by civil society in Serbia, as Jelica Minić
and Miljenko Dereta lay out in their chapter. In Serbia, the IZLAZ 2000 (Exit 2000)
campaign presented the September 2000 presidential elections as a potential
exit from the domestic crisis and international isolation that country experienced
under the Milošević regime. However, the nature of that regime, incomparably more
determined to cling to power than the leadership in Slovakia and Croatia, required
additional and novel forms of civic action for change. Chief among these was the youth
movement OTPOR (Resistance) whose more radical anti-Milošević campaign was an
important complement to the more moderate and positive appeal of IZLAZ 2000.
Jointly, these and several other civic initiatives succeeded in mobilizing hundreds of
thousands of Serbian citizens to protest obvious election fraud, eventually forcing
Milošević to resign and give way to a democratically elected government.
This more radical pattern of civic engagement was replicated by Georgian civil
society, and especially the youth group KMARA (Enough!), which drew much
inspiration from OTPOR in Serbia. Giorgi Meladze and Giorgi Kandelaki illustrate
how effectively this relatively small youth movement, in cooperation with a few
established nongovernmental organizations, challenged the regime of Eduard
Shevardnadze. At times bold, at times funny, but always strictly nonviolent in its
resistance, KMARA paved the way for the mass protests that ensued within days of
the rigged parliamentary elections in November 2003 and resulted in the installation
of a democratically elected government. With this Rose Revolution, as the authors
point out, successful civic action for electoral change also made its entry into the
post-Soviet space.
Ukraine is the subject of the last case study in the series. One of the driving forces
of the spectacular Orange Revolution was, according to Iryna Chupryna, Vladyslav
Kaskiv and Yevhen Zolotariov, the Civic Campaign PORA (It’s Time!), an information
and mobilization program launched prior to the presidential elections in 2004 and

involving numerous civic groups and volunteers across Ukraine. Besides its sheer
scale and visibility during the democratic breakthrough in Ukraine, an interesting
aspect of PORA is that it combined the two forms of election-related civic campaigning
observed in the other countries. One of its wings, yellow PORA, pursued a more
moderate campaign aimed to ensure free and fair elections through information,
get-out-the-vote and monitoring activities, as did OK ‘98, GLAS 99 and IZLAZ 2000.
At the same time, another wing called black PORA espoused more radical demands
and openly advocated the ouster of the neo-authoritarian government of President
Kuchma, much like OTPOR in Serbia and KMARA in Georgia.
What emerges from these case studies is a fascinating story of citizens engaging
in defense of their democratic rights, with a force that often took those in power
by complete surprise. While there are many parallels between these fi ve cases of
change, the case studies also demonstrate the nuances that often remain hidden
behind broader categories such as “color revolutions” that have been applied to
recent democratic change in Central and Eastern Europe. In order to trace such
differences and similarities more systematically, the second part of this book
provides a set of comparative perspectives on electoral breakthroughs in the fi ve
countries. At the same time, such comparisons also help to place the observed
civil society component in the broader political, social, economic and international
context, and thus, to appreciate the relative signifi cance of a broader set of factors
that contributed to democratic change in postcommunist countries.
In his contribution, Vitali Silitski demonstrates that a central factor determining the
chances for, course and outcome of electoral change was the nature of the semi-
authoritarian regime in question. The degree of its consolidation of power and control
over society, the existence or absence of any competing leadership and the use of
identity politics led to very different scenarios of electoral change, which took the
form of transformative elections in Slovakia and Croatia, but electoral revolutions
in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. This regime factor is of particular relevance for the
prospect of further electoral change in postcommunist Europe, which has rapidly
decreased in the last years as remaining semi-authoritarian regimes have hardened
and systematically narrowed the space for any remaining agents that may potentially
become carriers of democratic change in their countries.
This specifi city of individual countries and their variously non-democratic regimes
relates closely to the strategies and resources employed by civil society in pressing
for democratic change, as Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig point out in the next
chapter. A few overarching principles for civic campaigns pressing for electoral
change do exist, including nonpartisanship and nonviolence, and have been at
the core of an active transfer of experience among countries undergoing electoral
breakthroughs. At the same time, no universal recipe exists for civil society efforts to
assert democracy, a misconception shared by many, be they well or ill-intentioned.
Instead, strategies and resources need to be commensurate with the very specifi c
Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš

circumstances of individual countries, thus, demanding a high degree of fl exibility
and creativity among all pursuing and assisting democratic change.
One of the few constants across instances of electoral breakthrough has been the
critical importance of young people. In their contribution, Valerie Bunce and Sharon
Wolchik maintain that youth fi gured prominently as both subjects and objects of
recent electoral change from Slovakia to Ukraine, although differing in form and
extent across the countries. For democratic parties, fi rst-time voters embodied
an important reservoir of support, as did youth volunteering for NGOs and civic
campaigns, and wherever protests ensued, young people were typically at the
forefront of civil disobedience. However, and while in the short-run this upsurge
in youth participation contributed much to achieving democratic breakthroughs
through elections, the longer-term effects are less certain, as many young people
quickly retreated into their private lives and discontinued their public involvement.
By comparison, much less obvious has been the infl uence of the economy on
democratic change. In his chapter, Robin Shepherd surveys the broad parameters
of economic development in the fi ve postcommunist countries prior to electoral
breakthroughs. His analysis points out that actual economic dynamics, growth
and infl ation, income and unemployment, make for very mixed effects, suggesting
no clear causal links, although it is possible to fi nd specifi c examples of economic
infl uence. More subtly, perceptions and beliefs held by the broad public on socio-
economic issues, such as corruption, affected the legitimacy of semi-autocrats.
More overtly, private business played a role in electoral breakthroughs, not least
through commercial broadcasters countering the propaganda of state-controlled
media. These examples indicate that economic infl uences on democratization have
been intertwined with a broader set of social and political factors.
These various determinants of electoral change are the subject of the chapter by
Taras Kuzio. His systematic account describes factors leading to change including
a competitive authoritarian state that allows space for a democratic opposition,
“return to Europe” civic nationalism that assists in civil society mobilization, a
preceding political crisis, a pro-democratic capital city, unpopular ruling elites, a
charismatic candidate supported by a united opposition, youth politics, regionalism
and foreign intervention. While these factors largely had to be in place for electoral
breakthroughs to occur, whether or not democracy has consolidated in a given
country has depended on several further conditions, including the ability of new
governments to come to terms with the most recent past, divisions among democrats,
the return of political parties affi liated with the previous semi-authoritarian regime
and manifest progress with democratic reforms. These and other diffi culties have
marked the aftermath of democratic breakthroughs in the fi ve countries and have
given rise to concern. Such critical assessments must not overlook the progress
made towards liberal democracy, more rapid in some of the countries while more

gradual in others, yet in all cases successful to date in averting backsliding into
The overall positive record of recent electoral breakthroughs in Central and Eastern
Europe, however, provokes the question of continued democratic change in the region
and further afi eld. As Ivan Krastev argues in his more critical outlook concluding
this book, the observed pattern of re-instating democracy through elections does
not necessarily provide a model applicable to other postcommunist countries. The
hardening and sophistication of remaining authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe,
mounting backlashes against democracy assistance, the rising populist threat to
liberalism and the weakening of the European Union’s soft power place powerful
obstacles in the way of continued democratic change.
This book and its editors are indebted to many for their support. In the fi rst place,
all contributors deserve a special thank you. We would especially like to thank those
who, as civic activists, found themselves in the unusual position of being authors,
while all those used to writing professionally have had to muster unusual patience
for this book to appear. We are also grateful to all those who kindly provided
photographic material and illustrations. At the German Marshall Fund of the United
States, Craig Kennedy and Phil Henderson supported this project from the very
beginning, while Helena Mudríková helped with her usual calm and care. At Erste
Foundation in Vienna, Austria, we were fortunate to fi nd generous and gracious
partners in Boris Marte, Knut Neumayer and their colleagues, and we hope that this
book marks the beginning of a long and fruitful cooperative relationship. We would
further like to thank our copy editor Yael Ohana at Frankly Speaking in Bratislava,
Slovakia, who has been most fl exible, skilful and patient, as well as Lucia Lörinczová
and her creative team at Feriva in Bratislava, Slovakia, for ensuring the timely and
quality production of this book. Most importantly, however, this book owes thanks
to all those who helped to bring about the democratic changes described. It is to
the courageous citizens of Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine that we
dedicate this book.
Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš



Martin Bútora
The number of civic campaigns undertaken by Slovak civil society is one of the most
remarkable characteristics of the sector’s recent history. Slovak nongovernmental
organizations earned considerable public reputation in the struggle against the non-
democratic practices of Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar and his government. With
the parliamentary elections in September 1998, this struggle came to a head. A
consolidated platform of NGOs launched the civic campaign known as OK ‘98 (full
name: Občianska kampaň ‘98) to increase citizens’ awareness about the elections,
to encourage them to vote and to guarantee a fair ballot through independent civic
supervision. The campaign helped to mobilize the electorate and contributed to the
record 84 percent turnout. Dozens of NGOs organized educational projects, cultural
events, concerts, discussion forums and issued publications, video-clips and fi lms.
Hundreds of volunteers across the country attracted thousands of concerned
citizens to election-related events.
The 1998 election was a milestone for Slovak citizens. It was a turning point in their
struggle to determine the character of their state. After years of deviation towards
illiberal democracy and isolation, Slovak voters clearly expressed the wish to live in a
country respectful of the principles of democracy and the rule of law, integrated into
Europe, recognized internationally and with real prospects for economic prosperity.
With the help of OK ‘98, Slovak citizens ousted the semi-authoritarian Mečiar
government and paved the way for Slovakia’s rapid democratic and economic reform
and full Euroatlantic integration.
Since then, NGOs have remained active and visible in public life, aiming at building
a responsible citizenry, providing services, preserving diversity, testing social
innovations, controlling those in power, promoting democratic governance and
critically refl ecting the country’s social, political and economic problems. In so
doing, civil society organizations have regularly concluded broader alliances and
joint campaigns, such as, for example, the nationwide campaign launched in
2000 to ensure the enactment of a better Freedom of Information Act (supported
by over 120 NGOs associating over 100,000 members). And, in spite of a certain
disenchantment with politics, part of the civic sector was active prior to the 2002
elections, critical for Slovakia’s Euroatlantic integration aspirations, following the
example and good practice of OK ‘98.

Authoritarian Temptations:
Slovakia under Vladimír Mečiar
The Velvet Revolution of 1989 ushered in hopes for a new era of democracy,
economic prosperity and Euroatlantic integration for Czechoslovakia. However, the
usual course of democratic transitions, involving a founding election to confi rm
change, democratic institutionalization and consolidation
1, was complicated
by the country’s break-up at the end of 1992. While the peaceful dissolution of
Czechoslovakia was rightly named the “Velvet Divorce”, citizens regarded it with
ambivalence and mixed feelings. Doubts abounded, notably regarding the legitimacy
of the decision, as it was made without a referendum, and regarding the democratic
convictions of the winners of the June 1992 elections, most notably, of Vladimír
Mečiar, leader of Hnutie za demokratické Slovensko (Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia, henceforth, HZDS), who ran Slovakia almost uninterruptedly from those
elections until October 1998.
Mečiar’s policy of national populism was not the only complicating factor for
Slovakia’s development, however. For Slovakia, nation-state building was demanding.
The Czech part of the former common state, which had a history of statehood,
democratic traditions, ethnic homogeneity and, in 1992, a stronger economy, was
better able to cope with the many challenges brought about by independence. The
new Slovak Republic faced the tasks of building democracy and the rule of law on the
basis of relatively weak democratic traditions and with political elites that were highly
polarized, at the same time as having to develop a new societal and cultural identity.
The creation of a competent state bureaucracy, establishing new institutions (often
from scratch) and strengthening the infrastructure of civil society had to be achieved.
A market economy had to be rebuilt, rendered diffi cult by Slovakia’s history of delayed
modernization, characterized by strict economic regulation and the dominance of
heavy industry and the manufacture of arms, typical of state socialism. While the
social engineering of communist rule enabled the state to increase the standard
of living and provide education and employment, it also advanced the idea that
progress is possible without freedom and that it can be achieved even when human
and civil rights are curtailed. Forty years of life under the guardianship of the socialist
welfare state made many Slovaks believe that the drastic rise in unemployment that
took place after the fall of communism was too high a price to pay for freedom.
An unscrupulous politician with autocratic inclinations, Mečiar built his popularity
and power with promises that he would solve the country’s problems if only
allowed to rule as uncontested leader. After the early elections in 1994, he created
a parliamentary alliance with the radical rightist nationalist Slovenská národná
strana (the Slovak National Party, henceforth SNS) and the extreme anti-reform
1 See Soňa Szomolányi and John A. Gould (eds.), Slovakia: Problems of Democratic Consolidation
and the Struggle for the Rules of the Game (Slovak Political Science Association and Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung, Bratislava, 1997).

leftist Združenie robotníkov Slovenska (the Alliance of the Workers of Slovakia,
henceforth ZRS). This special amalgam of authoritarian politics embraced both prewar
traditionalist nationalist populism and postwar socialist collectivism. Slovakia slid into
semi-authoritarianism, starting with the “night of the long knives” (November 3-
4, 1994) during which the newly elected majority in the Slovak parliament seized
control of key institutions, ranging from the National Property Fund to the Supreme
Inspection Offi ce to the Prosecutor General, excluding the political opposition from
any important position in the parliament.
Strong criticism from the European Union and the United States of the “tyranny
of the majority” developing in Slovakia did not dissuade Mečiar. Disrespect for
and open confrontation with President Michal Kováč, repeated violations of the
constitution, obstruction of the referendum on direct presidential elections held
in May 1997, rising interventionism by the center at the expense of local self-
government and the exclusion of the parliamentary opposition from oversight of
the intelligence services, public media and the privatization process, all served to
undermine democratic checks and balances. As a result, the state administration
became politicized, the government openly interfered with state-run television and
radio, the sizeable Hungarian minority was ostracized and the privatization process
turned clientelist. Concern also spread about ties between organized crime and the
government, exemplifi ed by the suspected participation of the secret services in the
kidnapping of President Kováč’s son and the subsequent murder of a police offi cer
involved in the investigation.
This anti-democratic style of governance, soon dubbed “Mečiarism”,
2 left its imprint
on political culture in Slovakia. “Winner takes all” majoritarianism, unwillingness to
seek consensus, disrespect for minority opinions and the frequent labeling of critics
as “enemies”, “anti-Slovak” or “anti-state” were replicated by local autocrats loyal to
the central government. Fear of government became widespread, especially in the
countryside. Sharp political divisions reached deep into families and upset neighborly
relations. Slovakia entered a period of “unconsolidated democracy” characterized by
the exercise of power ad hoc and ad hominem and by the absence of fi rm rules.
And, even if the country had a vocal political opposition, some independent media,
relatively autonomous trade unions and universities and a vibrant civil society, not to
mention an independent constitutional court and president, the Slovak Republic fell
behind its neighbors, not meeting the criteria for integration into the European Union
and NATO and considered likely to be excluded from the fi rst wave of enlargement.
2 See Marián Leško, Mečiar a mečiarizmus. Politik bez škrupúľ, politika bez zábran (VMV,
Bratislava, 1996).
3 Philippe C. Schmitter, “Democratic Dangers and Dilemmas”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 5, no.
2 (April 1994), pp. 57-74.
Martin Bútora

The country became increasingly internationally isolated, described as “a black hole
in the heart of Europe” by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. 4
However, the government’s authoritarian behavior also had unintended positive
outcomes. Citizens began to pay greater attention to the question of democracy. If
during the fi rst years of postcommunist transformation people were most concerned
with living standards, social insecurity, unemployment, crime and health care, in the
second half of the nineties issues of political culture, democracy and the rule of law
became increasingly important. People started to put more emphasis on pluralism,
compliance with the law, the search for consensus and respect for minority rights.
Critical intellectuals debated how the state could be “founded anew” and endowed
with democratic content.
5 Of course, attitudes as revealed by opinion polls cannot
guarantee political change, especially in situations where feelings of helplessness
are widespread.
6 Increased public discontent becomes an impetus for political
change only when groups of people take a particular issue on and organize and
engage in civic activities geared at change. This was precisely the challenge that civil
society in Slovakia as a whole, and NGOs, in particular, faced.
Civil Society in Slovakia after 1989
A s s o c i a t i v e l i fe h a s h i s t o r i c a l l y fl o u r i s h e d i n S l o v a k i a u n d e r c o n d i t i o n s o f d e m o c r a c y,
although given the fi fty year fate of authoritarianism that befell the country (the
war time Slovak state, an ally of Hitler, from 1939 to 1945 was followed soon,
thereafter, by state socialism from 1948 to 1989), such periods were rare. History,
nevertheless, provides several examples, including the “associative fever” that
erupted in the aftermath of the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 and the time
during and after the Velvet Revolution of November 1989, during which there was an
outburst of civic activism and one of the key protagonists of change in Slovakia, the
movement Verejnosť proti násiliu (Public Against Violence), was created.
With the fall of communism, civil society developed rapidly. New legislation facilitated
the upsurge in civic activity, particularly the Civil Association Act adopted in March
1990 by the federal parliament. The environmental movement, one of the primary
motors of change in Slovakia, became multi-layered. Some former “green dissent”
activists continued to operate in existing organizations, others established new
4 See Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov and Zora Bútorová, “Diagnóza, ktorá nepustí”, in: Sľuby
a realita. Slovenská ekonomika 1995-1998 (M.E.S.A. 10, Bratislava, 1998).
5 Milan Šútovec, “Kam povedú tie diaľnice?”, Domino Fórum (1, Bratislava, 1997).
6 According to an Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) survey carried out in October 1997, 80 percent
of Slovaks felt that they did not have any infl uence over developments in the country. A depressive
social atmosphere reigned, with 55 percent of citizens in June 1998 indicating they were afraid
to discuss their political views in public. See Zora Bútorová, “Development of Public Opinion:
from Discontent to the Support of Political Change” in: Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora
Bútorová and Sharon Fisher (eds.), The 1998 Parliamentary Elections and Democratic Rebirth in
Slovakia (Institute for Public Affairs, Bratislava, 1999).

ones and yet others entered public life and became politicians, public offi cials and
legislators. New political parties emerged and new interest groups were founded by
students, who had been crucial to the success of the Velvet Revolution, and by artists,
journalists, entrepreneurs and human rights activists. Previously suppressed groups,
such as Christian associations, were free to pursue their activities. Civil society
fl ourished at all levels from the national to local.
7 In October 1991, nongovernmental
organizations held their fi rst national conference, a landmark in the history of civil
society in Slovakia that began a tradition of democratic governance in the third sector.
In 1994, the Grémium tretieho sektora or Gremium of the Third Sector was founded:
a voluntary advocacy group of 16 elected NGO representatives from various fi elds of
civic activity including humanitarian and charitable activities, youth and education,
the environment, human and minority rights and culture. The Gremium was unique
in that it incorporated all key areas of civic action, earning it legitimacy and broad
support. The Gremium’s emergence coincided with the government’s intensifying
pressure on the third sector, which undoubtedly increased its unity in defense of the
common interests of civil society in Slovakia.
Accompanying this development was the establishment of NGOs assisting the
third sector with various services including training, information, legal counseling,
the development of community foundations and policy analyses. Long-term grant
making programs were launched by the Open Society Foundation, the Civil Society
Development Foundation fi nanced by the European Union’s PHARE Program,
the Democracy Network program of the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) and many other international funders. The Donors’ Forum
emerged as a service entity for NGOs, while the association ChangeNet infl uenced
electronic communications by providing an independent Internet server for
civil society. Many NGOs were involved in activities related to democracy, such as
campaigning, educating and holding elected offi cials accountable. The attention of
the broader public was attracted by The Gemma Foundation in Southern Slovakia,
which organized a trek across the country to distribute literature and talk to citizens
about the importance of the European Union and NATO. The People and Water
Association in Eastern Slovakia successfully mobilized local inhabitants, mayors,
priests and the media to oppose the construction of a new dam in Tichý Potok, with
the result that the environment ministry shelved the plan.
By the mid-1990s, Slovakia had witnessed the emergence of almost every form of
nongovernmental and nonprofi t organization known in advanced democracies, with
the exception perhaps of large endowed philanthropic entities. Slovak NGOs were
fi ghting racism and drug addiction, cared for the sick and the disabled, worked for
clearer air and water, taught music, art and sports, helped young workers fi nd their
fi rst jobs and trained displaced workers for new jobs. Some were small operations
7 For an overview of civic associating, see Jozef Majchrák, Boris Strečanský and Martin Bútora
(eds.), Keď ľahostajnosť nie je odpoveď (Inštitút pre verejné otázky, Bratislava, 2004).
Martin Bútora

driven by the energy and vision of a few volunteers. Others had professional staff,
websites and extensive international contacts.
Slovakia’s NGOs were much more than islands of isolated idealism or “islands of
positive deviance”, as independent civic initiatives were called by Slovak sociologists
before the fall of communism in the late 1980s, hardened as they were by their
clashes with the authorities during the Tretí sektor SOS ( T hird S e c tor S O S) c amp aig n
in 1996 to protest restrictive legislation on foundations. Even though the number of
registered organizations fell after the enactment of the new law on foundations in
June 1996, they had grown into an impressive force and constituted a vibrant and
effi cient “civil archipelago” of hope and positive action. In February 1998, on the
eve of the OK ‘98 campaign, 14,400 civil society organizations were registered in
Slovakia, including some 12,000 civic associations, societies, unions, movements,
clubs and international NGOs, 422 foundations and 161 non-investment funds.
These were also visible in public life, as evidenced by the approximated 25,000
articles on NGOs published between 1995 and 1997.
Overcoming Fragmentation
in the Democratic Opposition
Under the pressure of adverse political developments, signs of increased civil
mobilization gradually began to emerge. They came from all sectors of society. A
wide array of civic organizations assembled in The Association of Civil Associations
in Slovakia to protest the “Law on the Protection of the Republic”, which would have
posed a signifi cant threat to freedom and democracy, but which was eventually
rejected by parliament. The Center for Environmental Public Advocacy successfully
concluded its legal assistance to the citizens of the small village of Ďubákovo,
where a construction ban had been imposed by the state in 1982. In December
1997, the constitutional court declared the ban unconstitutional, which established
an important precedent for local community rights in the face of the powerful
water management and energy lobby. Representatives of the Hungarian minority
effectively mobilized their voters to reject the government’s implementation of so-
called “alternative” education in the Slovak language, imposed without consultation
with the Hungarian community. Students at Bratislava’s Metodova Street high
school stopped the politically motivated dismissal of their principal through protest
action. Protest actions by actors and other members of the cultural community,
who organized Zachráňme kultúru (Save Our Culture) forums, opposing government

inter ference in the cultural sphere, were ver y popular although they were only par tly
successful. Many citizens, at least privately, agreed with the protests. 8
In the political sphere, the democratic opposition in Slovakia underwent much-
needed transformation and came to the realization that in order to confront the
authoritarian tendencies of the incumbent government they would have to overcome
their differences, substantive as they might have been. On the one hand, popular
support for the opposition as a whole was signifi cantly higher than support for
the ruling coalition. On the other hand, the fragmented political opposition could
not take advantage of its popularity with the public, as parties did not suffi ciently
communicate, cooperate and coordinate their efforts. In July 1997, the chairmen of
the Kresťanskodemokratické hnutie (Christian Democratic Movement, henceforth
KDH), Demokratická únia (the Democratic Union, henceforth DU), Demokratická
strana (the Democratic Party, henceforth DS), Sociálnodemokratická strana
Slovenska (the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia, henceforth SDSS) and Strana
zelených na Slovensku (the Green Party of Slovakia, henceforth SZS) signed an
agreement pledging to run in the 1998 parliamentary elections as a single bloc
under the name of Slovenská demokratická koalícia or the Slovak Democratic
Coalition (henceforth, SDK). The creation of SDK was an opportunity for smaller
opposition parties that did not reach the fi ve-percent threshold, as was the case the
1992 and 1994 elections.
The government’s thwarting of the May 1997 referendum on direct presidential
elections and on Slovakia’s entry into NATO shook public opinion and the opposition
into action.
9 The debate on direct presidential elections began in December 1996,
when opposition representatives argued that it would be diffi cult for parliament to
build the consensus required for electing a new president at the end of President
Kováč’s term in 1998. Following the governing coalition’s refusal to schedule
parliamentary debates on the proposal, the opposition petitioned for a referendum.
They gathered more than 520,000 signatures, a signifi cant number in a country of
8 In 1996, as much as 64 percent of citizens regarded as justifi ed the prote st s of physicians and
health care providers against government policy, 53 percent approved of the protests by theater
artists and other representatives of the cultural community, 52 percent supported the protests
by employees of privatized companies against privatization decisions and 50 percent agreed
with the protests by university teachers and others in the academic community against the
government’s draft law on universities. According to IVO fi ndings from July 1998, as much as 70
percent of respondents supported the protests of physicians and health care providers against
government policy. See Zora Bútorová, “Development of Public Opinion: from Discontent to the
Support of Political Change”, in: Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora Bútorová and Sharon
Fisher (eds.), The 1998 Parliamentary Elections and Democratic Rebirth in Slovakia (Institute for
Public Affairs, Bratislava, 1999), op cit.
9 For more details, see Grigorij Mesežnikov, “Domestic Politics”, in: Martin Bútora and Thomas
W. Skladony (eds.), Slovakia 1996-1997: A Global Report on the State of Society (Institute for
Public Affairs, Bratislava, 1998). A detailed overview and analysis of the obstructed referendum
can be found in: Grigorij Mesežnikov and Martin Bútora (eds.), Slovenské referendum ‘97: zrod,
priebeh, dôsledky (Inštitút pre verejné otázky, Bratislava, 1997).
Martin Bútora

5.3 million inhabitants. According to a March 1997 survey, 57 percent of respondents
intended to take part in the referendum and 76 percent declared that they were in
favor of direct presidential elections, a clear success in shaping public discourse for
the opposition.
Subsequently, the parliament passed a resolution instructing the president to call a
referendum on Slovakia’s membership in NATO (despite the fact that Slovakia was
not invited to join the alliance). President Kováč then decided to merge the referenda.
This was vigorously opposed by Mečiar’s ruling coalition, and the government
instructed Interior Minister Gustáv Krajči to reprint the ballot papers without the
question on direct presidential elections. In response, the central referendum
commission declared the result void and asked for an investigation, in which the
interior minister was later accused of committing a legal offense.
11 The opposition
called for a boycott, resulting in 9.8 percent turnout. In the aftermath, doubt spread
as to whether upcoming parliamentary elections could be free and fair and the
democratic opposition and civil society began discussing how to ensure they would
be. This was a political turning point in two respects as it created the impetus for
the formation of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) and raised the challenge of
how democratically-minded actors could avert the advent of an authoritarian regime
in Slovakia.
Launching the OK ‘98 Campaign
In preparing for the OK ‘98 campaign, Slovak NGOs could build on the experience of
several earlier campaigns. An early and well-known example of independent thought
and action was the 1987 Bratislava nahlas (Bratislava Aloud) study, collectively
produced by environmentalists, researchers and journalists. The report included
facts about damage done to the environment and called for dialogue on the issue.
The study’s systematic criticism took on a political dimension. Several of the key
fi gures behind this report were persecuted and harassed by the secret police,
later appearing at the front line of active citizens in November 1989. After 1989, a
noteworthy example was the Tretí sektor SOS (Third Sector SOS) campaign, which
was launched in 1996 by the Gremium of the Third Sector against a discriminatory bill
on foundations. The bill was criticized by the NGOs because, if passed, establishing
foundations would be hampered by excessive bureaucracy and artifi cial barriers.
Although it did not succeed in averting the bill, the campaign was infl uential. Many
10 See Public Opinion Research Institute, Názory. Informačný bulletin, vol. 8, no. 1 (Statistical
Offi ce of the Slovak Republic, Bratislava, 1997).
11 The district prosecutor dropped the criminal indictment and in November 1997, seven months
after the referendum, the government backed the interior minister’s actions.

organizations came out of the shadows, allying themselves with others 12 and inspiring
citizens to engage in civic resistance. 13 Mečiar’s 1994 to 1998 term of government
was literally “littered” with protest meetings, petitions, open letters and other forms
of expression in opposition to government policies. All of them carried an underlying
democratic message, whether they were aimed at defending the social rights of
citizens or at the direct defense of democracy and self-government in society.
That these protest activities often met with similar reactions from the authorities,
before and after 1989, is no coincidence. If during the communist regime such
activities were termed “anti-socialist”, under Mečiar “anti-Slovak” was used. Pro-
government media commonly claimed that the operation of the civic sector was
the result of “stimulation from foreign centers” and accused NGOs of “supporting
cosmopolitanism” and of endeavoring to “subvert the Republic”. Bitter experience
of the referendum, the very real threat of “double exclusion” from integration into
the EU and NATO and the arrogance of those in power in fl aunting the rule of law
strengthened the concern of many Slovaks that the government would manipulate
the elections in order to remain in power.
14 People felt that the legacy of the Velvet
Revolution was threatened. For civic activists, it was time to think and act.
By the summer of 1997, Slovak NGO leaders had begun discussing their strategies
for getting more involved in the parliamentary elections, forthcoming in 1998. An
important landmark was the annual conference of the third sector that took place in
October 1997 in Košice. Held under the title “Working Actively for Democracy”, the
conference adopted a fi nal declaration supporting NGO activities aimed at increasing
citizen awareness for free and fair elections in 1998. It also urged the presence of
international observers during the election campaign. Later, in November 1997, the
results of the conference were taken up at an informal meeting of representatives
of the Foundation for a Civil Society, the German Marshall Fund of the United States,
the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and other donor organizations in Brussels. At a
12 Pavol Demeš and David Daniel, “Third Sector SOS Campaign” in: Building Civil Society
Worldwide: Strategies for Successful Communication (CIVICUS Publications, Washington, DC,
13 Jan Surotchak, a civic activist with foreign experience, who served as the head of the
Foundation for a Civil Society Program in Slovakia, underlined the factor of accumulated capacity,
as follows, “The Third Sector SOS campaign in 1996 (…) built a great deal of capacity in the sector
(…) I personally don’t believe that OK ‘98 would have been that successful, if that experience
had not been there (…)”. Quoted in Oľga Berecká, Natália Kušnieriková and Dušan Ondrušek,
“NGO Campaign for Free and Fair Elections. OK ‘98 – Lessons Learned” (Partners for Democratic
Change, Bratislava, 1999).
14 The general lack of confi dence of the citizenry in the possibility of free and fair parliamentary
elections was demonstrated in an IVO survey conducted in January 1998. Only 41 percent of
respondents believed that the elections would be free and fair, while 37 percent believed that
they would not be. As many as 22 percent could not predict how the course of the elections
would go. See Zora Bútorová, “Development of Public Opinion: from Discontent to the Support of
Political Change”, in: Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora Bútorová and Sharon Fisher (eds.),
The 1998 Parliamentary Elections and Democratic Rebirth in Slovakia (Institute for Public Affairs,
Bratislava, 1999).
Martin Bútora

subsequent meeting in Vienna, on December 15, 1997, civic leaders from Bulgaria
and Romania lent their experience from similar campaigns in their countries.
The framework of OK ‘98 was developed in January 1998 by the SAIA–Service Center
for the Third Sector (henceforth, SAIA-SCTS) and it was presented, discussed and,
after amendment, adopted at a meeting of founding NGOs on January 10, 1998.
A broader discussion within the NGO community and with various donors, including
the Slovak Donors’ Forum, took place over the following three months. As a result,
on March 3, 1998, over 50 civic leaders met in Zvolen and issued the fi rst statement
about the campaign. The declaration included strong criticism of the government,
expressing “a fundamental dissatisfaction” with the legislation regulating the electoral
process and how it was prepared and approved, and presented the fundamental
principles of the campaign to the public. Firstly, it declared its sense of responsibility
at a decisive moment in Slovakia’s history: “Slovakia is currently at a critical stage in
its development. Citizens feel that their votes cannot alter developments in society.
For this reason, it is enormously important that we take responsibility for our own
future in the coming elections”. Secondly, it espoused a moral commitment to civic
participation: “We view it as our moral responsibility to contribute to ensuring that
citizens take part in the political process and to monitor the course of the elections”.
Thirdly, it expressed determination to resist: “We declare that, in the case that
anyone attempts to disrupt the democratic process in Slovakia, we will make use
of our constitutional right to resist these attempts, together with representatives of
trade unions, churches, local governments and other democratic forces”.
On this basis, the OK ‘98 campaign was developed as an open nonpartisan public
initiative, designed to help ensure free and fair elections. It served the threefold
aim of improving voter awareness and information about the parliamentary and
local elections in 1998, increasing the turnout of citizens at the polls and increasing
the infl uence of citizens on the preparation of the election law, thereby, ensuring
citizen oversight of the fairness of the elections.
17 The fundamental function of the
campaign “was to clarify among citizens the link between a responsible attitude in
asserting one’s right to vote and the potential for solving contemporary individual
15 The Civic Campaign OK ‘98 was initiated by eleven well-known personalities involved in
Slovak NGOs representing organizations active in the fi eld of civil society and democracy building.
Subsequently they created the campaign’s coordination council. They were: Andrej Bartosiewicz
(Association for the Support of Local Democracy), Ingrid Baumannová (The Foundation for a Civil
Society [NOS]), Daniel Brezina (Gemma ‘93), Zora Bútorová (Institute for Public Affairs), Pavol
Demeš (SAIA-Service Center for the Third Sector), Péter Hunčík (Sándor Márai Foundation),
Michal Kravčík (People and Water), Juraj Mesík (Ekopolis-EPCE), Dušan Ondrušek (Partners
for Democratic Change Slovakia), Braňo Orgoník (Informal Association of Trenčín) and Šarlota
Puffl erová (Foundation Citizen and Democracy, MRG) who became the spokesperson for the
16 See Pavol Demeš, OK ‘98 Campaign of Slovak NGOs for Free and Fair Elections: A Case Study
(Slovak Academic Information Agency, Bratislava, October 1998).
17 Ibid.

and collective problems”. 18 Contrary to the Tretí sektor SOS Campaign of 1996 to
1997, which was established to “defend” the third sector, the OK ‘98 campaign
chose a positive and pro-active approach. The acronym OK ‘98, that stood for
Občianska kampaň ‘98 (Civic Campaign ‘98) refl ected this and signaled optimism
that, if people got involved, everything would work out.
19 This initiative was critical
in fi ghting the defeatist mood that had developed among citizens, as a result of the
proposed amendments to the election law announced by the HZDS. According to
legal experts, several of the proposed changes ran counter to the constitution and
to international election standards, increasing the risk of election manipulation.
Yet, despite protests from NGOs, distinguished public fi gures and representatives
of trade unions and churches, the new legislation, effectively creating an unfair
advantage for the HZDS in the forthcoming elections, was enacted in May 1998.
Two months before the elec tions, as much as 51 percent of the population expec ted
Prime Minister Mečiar to become head of the government once again, only 24
percent expected that he would not and 25 percent were unable to predict the
outcome of the election. Almost all supporters of the HZDS (94 percent) and the
majority of SNS supporters (66 percent) counted on Mečiar’s victory. In contrast,
the belief of opposition supporters in victory over Mečiar was even slightly weaker
than it had been in autumn 1997. On the other hand, political polarization in Slovak
society increasingly came to refl ect socio-cultural differences. While the supporters
of the HZDS and SNS were primarily resident in rural areas, the number of people
with higher education, young people, students, entrepreneurs, professionals and
inhabitants of big cities supporting the opposition was on the rise. This constituency
was sensitive to defi ciencies in democracy, more critical of authoritarian politicians,
more reluctant to adopt an attitude of passivity and resignation, and, thus, more
18 See Oľga Berecká, Natália Kušnieriková and Dušan Ondrušek, NGO Campaign for Free and
Fair Elections. OK ‘98 – Lessons Learned (Partners for Democratic Change, Bratislava, 1999),
op cit.
19 According to Pavol Demeš who devised it, “(…) we did not want to have it as the SOS for
the third sector we had before, when we were defending ourselves. Here I thought more of
involving an element of hope and activity. If we go for it, it will be OK in 1998”. The positive tone
was also emphasized by the media advisor of the campaign, Hana Hanúsková: “From the very
beginning we were decided to do the media campaign positively. We even tried to react positively
to all the negative attacks and there were quite many of those”. Quoted in Oľga Berecká, Natália
Kušnieriková and Dušan Ondrušek, NGO Campaign for Free and Fair Elections. OK ‘98 – Lessons
Learned (Partners for Democratic Change, Bratislava, 1999), op cit.
20 The amendment required that each party in a coalition must receive 5 percent of the vote
to qualify for seats. The chief target of this provision was undoubtedly the Slovak Democratic
Coalition (SDK). Other problematic provisions included restrictions on the transparency of voter
lists, inadequate safeguards against unauthorized voting and restrictions on private media
access and coverage. See “Comments on the Proposed Amendments to the Slovak Republic’s
Election Law”, manuscript prepared by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs,
April 30, 1998.
Martin Bútora

prepared to support the opposition. Evidently, there was a potential in citizens’
activity that could be mobilized. 21
The OK ‘98 Campaign:
“I think, therefore, I vote. I vote, therefore, I am”.
Within the scope of the OK ‘98 campaign, almost 60 independent information,
education and monitoring projects were prepared. The majority of these were of
a regional character, but there were also several larger projects with nationwide
impact, often oriented at young people.
Dissemination of information
The largest and most visible OK ‘98 project was “Road for Slovakia”, organized by
the civic association GEMMA 93. During a 15-day march (August 19 – September 3,
1998), some 350 civic activists covered more than 850 towns and villages across
Slovakia, distributing 500,000 brochures to inform voters about the elections.
Door-to-door campaigning explained voting procedures, stressed basic principles of
parliamentary democracy and emphasized the importance of citizen participation in
the elections. Theatre performances featuring popular actors were an integral part
of this activity.
Citizenship education in the media
The Permanent Conference of the Civic Institute and the private station Radio Twist
partnered to reach a broader public with a pre-election educational program. In a
series entitled “Slovakia and Democracy – the 1998 Elections”, 25 Slovak celebrities
were interviewed on the radio. At the end of each interview, the guest emphasized
that he or she was going to take part in the elections and called on the public to do
the same. No one made partisan statements. The personalities interviewed called
for activity and civic responsibility and for people to go out to vote.
“Rock the Vote” and other youth projects
“Rock the Vote” was organized by the Foundation for a Civil Society to encourage
young people between 18 and 21 years of age to vote. Under the slogan “Don’t Let
Others Decide about Your Future”, a bus with activists passed through 23 towns
21 See Zora Bútorová, “Development of Public Opinion: from Discontent to the Support of
Political Change”, in: Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora Bútorová and Sharon Fisher (eds.),
The 1998 Parliamentary Elections and Democratic Rebirth in Slovakia (Institute for Public Affairs,
Bratislava, 1999), op cit.
22 For instance Stano Dančiak, a respected member of the Slovak National Theatre. Actor Matej
Landl repeatedly said “it is important to go and vote because elections is something that will
decide your future”; see Martin Porubjak, “I Think, Therefore I Am: The Artists in the 1998 Election
Campaign”, in: Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora Bútorová and Sharon Fisher (eds.), The
1998 Parliamentary Elections and Democratic Rebirth in Slovakia (Institute for Public Affairs,
Bratislava, 1999), op cit.

from Eastern Slovakia to the packed Main Square in Bratislava, and staged 13 rock
concerts featuring popular rock bands. 23 Young activists explained to their peers
why it was important to vote, showing them who would benefi t from their indifference
and describing the procedures for voting. The concerts, the practical advice about
election procedures and the repeated calls for young voters to think independently,
met with a very positive response. Other projects successful in targeting young
people included the “Youth Campaign for the Elections” organized by the Slovak
Youth Council, discussions about voting rights and voter responsibility in 30 high
schools in 17 towns organized by the European Association of Student Rights
(ELSA) and the Student Solidarity Forum (FOŠTUS) project informing young people
about the technical aspects of the elections and about the competing parties. Two
documentary fi lms prepared by the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) and dedicated to
attracting fi rst-time voters were repeatedly screened on regional TV channels.
TV spots:
“I think, therefore, I vote. I vote, therefore, I am”.
Aiming to attract young voters, the civic association Hlava ‘98 (Head ‘98) organized
a series of TV and radio spots airing the slogan “I think, therefore, I vote. I vote,
therefore, I am” in cinemas, on the private station TV Markíza, on TV NAŠA in Eastern
Slovakia and twelve private radio stations covering different areas of the country.
In a non-traditional and artistically imaginative way, these spots stressed freedom
and the importance of voting. In the ads, young people called on their peers to take
part in the elections. Young people’s role models, like athletes and actors, relayed
the message. The ads were chic, genuine, humorous, and they had the charm of
personal expression.
Political and electoral education
The Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) published educational and analytical materials
aimed at journalists, commentators, public intellectuals, civic and student leaders,
politicians and diplomats. Publications addressed fundamental principles of
democratic electoral systems, the parliamentary mandate in Slovakia and the
electoral programs of political parties.
24 The F. A. Hayek Foundation and other think
tanks published similar analyses of party political programs.
Monitoring government performance
Besides analyzing the work of political parties, several programs focused on
evaluation of the government’s performance in various policy areas. Such projects
were carried out both within the OK ‘98 campaign, as well as independently. Among
23 See Marek Kapusta, Rock volieb ‘98 Campaign – Report on Activities and Results: A Case
Study (Foundation for a Civil Society, Bratislava, 1998).
24 Kálman Petőcz, Základy demokratických volebných systémov (Inštitút pre verejné otázky,
Bratislava,1997); Milan Galanda and Juraj Hrabko, Poslanecký mandát na Slovensku (Inštitút
pre verejné otázky, Bratislava, 1998); Grigorij Mesežnikov (ed.), Voľby 1998. Analýza volebných
programov politických strán a hnutí (Inštitút pre verejné otázky, Bratislava, 1998).
Martin Bútora

them were projects by the Confederation of Trade Unions on social and labor policy,
by the Society for a Sustainable Life on environmental questions, by Greenpeace on
energy, by the Center for the Support for Environmental Public Advocacy on water
management and public transportation, by the Alliance of Organizations of Disabled
People in Slovakia and the Board for Advising in Social Work on the social sphere, by
the Gremium of the Third Sector on NGO legislation, by the Slovak Helsinki Committee
on human rights and by the Student Solidarity Forum on matters affecting young
Ta r ge t i n g s p e c i a l g r o u p s
Several projects addressed specifi c groups in society. The Association of Expert
Seniors prepared a series of pre-election discussion forums for pensioners. Other
organizations prepared programs aimed at women, the Roma minority and disabled
Education for members of election commissions
The Anton Tunega Foundation prepared a project to educate members of election
commissions. In cooperation with a Košice-based organization, Public Presentation,
the foundation prepared a short instruction video, published 25,000 copies of a
high-quality manual for members of the polling station committees and trained 250
members of the committees with no party affi liation.
Targeted public opinion surveys and their dissemination
The impact of OK ‘98 among citizens was reinforced by six targeted public opinion
polls, which contributed to the ongoing public discourse about the approaching
25 As for the public’s perception of civic activities, the May 1998 poll
conducted by IVO showed that the majority of citizens supported the activity of
NGOs in all campaign areas covered by OK ‘98.
Disputes over the electoral law
Another function fulfi lled by OK ‘98, in the area of pre-election education, was
to explain to the public the substance of the new election law, enacted just four
months before the elections and widely criticized as non-democratic (see above
for a detailed description of the controversy over the election law). The campaign
against the highly controversial amendments to the election law was conducted on
the basis of expert analysis.
25 The fi ndings of extensive and in-depth surveys and analyses were presented at regularly held
press conferences, published in a series of articles in the widely read daily SME, as well as in
two books aimed both at domestic and foreign audiences; see Zora Bútorová (ed.), Slovensko
pred voľbami. Ľudia – názory – súvislosti (Inštitút pre verejné otázky, Bratislava, 1997), and an
extended English edition: Zora Bútorová (ed.), Democracy and Discontent in Slovakia: A Public
Opinion Profi le of a Country in Transition (Institute for Public Affairs, Bratislava, 1998).

Public forums, debates, discussions
Organized by a variety of NGOs, some 45 meetings bringing together citizens and
the candidates for election were held, mainly in cities. In general, opposition leaders
were more willing to participate and better prepared than the representatives of the
incumbent government and its political allies.
Monitoring the media
Although not directly under the auspices of the OK ‘98 campaign, a number of NGOs
were involved in monitoring the media during the months prior to the elections. The
most prominent of these was MEMO ‘98, supported by the Slovak Helsinki Citizens’
Assembly and the Association for the Support of Local Democracy. They monitored
major electronic and print media, regularly publishing analysis of media coverage of
the elections, their balance and objectivity or government bias.
26 A complementary
project was conducted by the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists, supported by Article
19 and the European Union’s PHARE Program, focusing on a different set of print
and electronic media. These efforts helped to illustrate “that there was bias and a
lack of objectivity, especially on the state-run Slovak television”.
Domestic observers in the elections
The Association for Fair Elections organized an independent project called “Civic Eye
‘98” (Občianske oko ‘98) to engage and train domestic election observers. While fi ve
weeks before the elections the government succumbed to international pressure,
fi nally allowing the presence of international observers from member countries
of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), it refused the
involvement of domestic observers. Thus, the central election commission did not
offi cially accredit the activists of the “Civic Eye ‘98”. Nevertheless, 1,746 volunteer
observers actively carried out their task outside polling stations. Thanks to the
chairpersons of many of the local polling station committees, there were also
observers inside some polling stations. The OSCE sent 25 long-term and 206 short-
term observers. They visited nearly 1,700 polling stations. Though they evaluated
the elections positively, one of their objections was precisely governmental “failure
to accredit domestic observers”. In fact, the pro-government media, particularly
Slovak television and the daily Slovenská Republika, systematically discredited both
26 Rastislav Kužel and Marek Mračka, Project MEMO ‘98: A Case Study (Helsinki Citizens’
Committee and the Association for the Support of Local Democracy, Bratislava, 1998).
27 Andrej Školkay, “The Media and Political Communication in the Election Campaign”, in: Martin
Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora Bútorová and Sharon Fisher (eds.), The 1998 Parliamentary
Elections and Democratic Rebirth in Slovakia (Institute for Public Affairs, Bratislava, 1999), op
28 For a description of the role of foreign observers, see Jeremy Druker, “International Observers
and the 1998 Elections”, in: Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora Bútorová and Sharon Fisher
(eds.), The 1998 Parliamentary Elections and Democratic Rebirth in Slovakia (Institute for Public
Affairs, Bratislava, 1999), op cit.
Martin Bútora

Besides the OK ‘98 campaign, other activities were run autonomously but served
similar election-related goals. These included appearances on private TV and radio
by celebrities from public cultural life. Many artists openly supported the Slovak
Democratic Coalition (SDK) and opposed the cultural policy of Vladimír Mečiar’s
government, which they considered arrogant and reminiscent of policy under
communism. The Confederation of Trade Unions (KOZ), the largest labor organization
in Slovakia, analyzed the voting habits of parliamentarians on key social problems
and published the results in leafl et form under the title “Big tips from KOZ”. KOZ also
studied the electoral platforms of the parties and found that the parties closest to
trade union goals were those of the opposition.
Inside OK ‘98:
Communication with a Broad Range of Partners
The OK ‘98 campaign was a large-scale effort of numerous NGOs, volunteers and
donors. It required mechanisms to formulate and implement a joint strategy and to
cooperate effectively with many partners in Slovakia and abroad. Decision making
took place on several levels, which refl ected the diverse composition of participating
actors and the decentralized nature of the campaign.
On the national level, the 11-member coordination council of OK ‘98 was the key
decision maker. Initially, its role was to develop a strategy and to mobilize interest and
support for the campaign in the NGO community and among donors. Later, supporting
communication among NGOs and their initiatives became more important, as did
providing contacts with domestic and foreign institutions and experts and helping
to establish partnerships and coalitions. In order to increase the fl exibility of the
coordination council, a three member executive committee was created.
30 Public
and media relations and dialogue with political representatives, trade union leaders,
mayors and other groups were an important part of its activities. The secretariat of
the campaign was established at the Foundation for a Civil Society in Bratislava.
Individual projects were autonomous in decision making and implementation. The
independence of the projects led, initially, to some diffi culties and frustrations in
communication between different partners. The situation improved when common
rules were settled. Several regional ad hoc g r o u p s o r c o a l i t i o n s o f N G O s w e r e c r e a t e d ,
designing strategies according to local needs. Regional coordination meetings were
held on a regular basis in Košice, Zvolen and Stupava.
29 See Darina Malová, “From Hesitation to a Calculated Strategy: The Confederation of Trade
Unions in the 1998 Elections”, in: Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora Bútorová and Sharon
Fisher (eds.), The 1998 Parliamentary Elections and Democratic Rebirth in Slovakia (Institute for
Public Affairs, Bratislava, 1999), op cit.
30 The members of the executive committee were Šarlota Puffl erová from the Foundation Citizen
and Democracy (spokesperson), Andrej Bartosiewicz from the Association for Support of Local
Democracy and Pavol Demeš from the SAIA-Service Center for the Third Sector.

There were also some problems of coordination with other partners, such as the
opposition political parties. This is attributable to the novel nature of the OK ‘98
campaign and it took the opposition political parties some time to understand
the potential of mutually coordinated activities. Communication with the parties
of the governing coalition was a different matter, however. Suspicious of free civic
initiatives, representatives of these parties often refused to participate in public
forums and debates or were opposed to civic monitoring of the elections. Worse,
some politicians and journalists openly attacked NGOs and their leaders, accusing
them of undermining the independence of Slovakia, of serving Slovakia’s enemies
and of not respecting the law. These attacks were repeated several times in the
state-owned media (especially on public television).
Given the increasingly pro-government bias of state media, it was crucial to work
effi ciently with private media, like the private TV Markíza and Radio Twist, as well as
with daily newspapers like SME. The OK ‘98 campaign organizers had to be proactive
and preempt disinformation conducted by the government. “It was not clear at all
to people how our campaign could be nonpartisan and political at the same time.
The stereotypes that existed in this society during the years of socialism caused
politics to be identifi ed with party leadership (…) our people have never even heard
of something like civil politics.”
31 For the OK ‘98 campaign, this meant that its goals
and activities had to be explained in a very accessible manner.
A large-scale campaign, such as OK ‘98, requires considerable resources and
funding. An effective system and procedure for the submission of NGO projects was
created by the Donors’ Forum, an informal association of grantmaking foundations
supporting democracy and civic participation.
32 Donors built a fl exible funding
system, simplifi ed application procedures and provided co-fi nancing for projects.
Information about these activities was regularly published in the NonProfi t magazine
and on the Internet. While the campaign benefi ted from an enormous amount of
voluntary work, from in-kind contributions like, for instance, the creative input of
artists and professionals specializing in “social campaigns”, as well as from smaller
contributions made by local business and private donations, the support provided
by European and U.S. donors, coming from both the private and public sectors, was
of critical importance.
31 Hana Hanúsková, media advisor of the campaign, quoted in: Oľga Berecká, Natália
Kušnieriková and Dušan Ondrušek, NGO Campaign for Free and Fair Elections. OK ‘98 – Lessons
Learned (Partners for Democratic Change, Bratislava, 1999), op cit.
32 These included the Civil Society Development Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, the
Foundation for a Civil Society, the Children of Slovakia Foundation, the Carpathian Foundation,
the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Jan
Hus Educational Foundation, the British Know How Fund, the Fund of Canada, the United States
Information Service (USIS) and others.
33 The overall fi nancial volume of the campaign was estimated at approx. 30 million Slovak
Crowns or, at that time, US$ 857,000; see Pavol Demeš, OK ‘98 Campaign of Slovak NGOs for
Free and Fair Elections: A Case Study (Slovak Academic Information Agency, Bratislava, 1998).
Martin Bútora

International contacts, however, went beyond external funding. For years before
the 1998 elections, the democratic community in Slovakia had maintained
communication with their counterparts in western democracies. There was ample
space for western politicians and experts, international institutions and independent
organizations to refl ect on developments in Slovakia. The political opposition had
partners in international organizations and independent media, academia, the
cultural community, and NGOs maintained their own relationships. For civil activists
in Slovakia, identifi cation with a “global civil society” was not just a slogan. They
lived that identifi cation through worldwide partnerships. In January 1998, eleven
presidents of Central European states met in the Eastern Slovak town of Levoča.
As the theme of the meeting was civil society, the heads of state also held talks
with representatives of Slovak NGOs. In May 1998, the European Union and the
United States presented awards for democracy and civil society to fi fty organizations
and individuals from Central and Eastern Europe. In a clear gesture of support for
democratic forces, three associations in Slovakia received awards “in recognition of
achievements in promoting democratic values and a civil society”, including two that
were involved in the OK ‘98 campaign (the People and Water Association and the
Gremium of the Third Sector).
A unique tool for coordinating the efforts of all democratic forces before the elections
w a s t h e D e m o c r a t i c R o u n d Ta b l e , a n i n f o r m a l p l a t f o r m t h a t i n c l u d e d r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s
of opposition parties, trade unions, towns and municipalities, youth organizations and
the third sector with the aims of ensuring the free and fair conduct of the elections,
preventing electoral fraud and securing a smooth transfer of political power after the
election. It was launched in June 1998, with seven meetings taking place prior to the
elections, and was attended by four democratic opposition partners: SDK (Slovak
Democratic Coalition), SMK (Party of the Hungarian Coalition), Strana demokratickej
ľavice or SDL’ (Party of the Democratic Left), Strana občianskeho porozumenia or
SOP (Party of Civic Understanding) and four nonpartisan actors: the Confederation
of Trade Unions (KOZ), the Gremium of the Third Sector, the Union of Cities and
Villages and the Youth Council of Slovakia.
These gatherings represented a new form of political dialogue. The Democratic
Round Table epitomized the most important achievement of pre-election efforts
in Slovakia: the ability to create democratic alliances. Independent media and the
majority of the representatives of important churches, although not represented
in the Democratic Round Table, were an informal part of the broader social effort
for democratic change. In some cases, this cooperation was based on the implicit
relationship of actors adhering to the same democratic values. In the case of the
Democratic Round Table, this alliance took the form of a public, visible and effective
association of pro-democratic forces. It became increasingly clear that this semi-
institutionalized grouping, which associated parties as actors of representative
democracy and civic groups that stood for participatory democracy, was ready

to defend the democratic character of the elections and, should the opposition
succeed, would not allow victory to be snatched from its hands.
A Second Chance for Democracy:
Achievements of the OK ‘98 Campaign
The civic activism developed in the OK ‘98 campaign played a critical role in
informing and educating citizens, monitoring the elections and in mobilizing voters,
with 84 percent turning out to vote, among them eight out of ten fi rst-time voters.
Post-election surveys indicated that the OK ‘98 campaign captured the attention of
the majority of citizens (70 percent), and the majority of those who had an opinion
on the campaign, evaluated it positively.
The extent and spectrum of activities, events, materials and products of the
campaign was impressive. Hundreds of reports in national and regional print and
electronic media covered these election-related efforts, thousands of volunteers
participated and over 2 million posters, leafl ets, postcards, stickers, brochures,
publications, pens, pencils, hats and t-shirts gave a visual image to the campaign.
People supported the change. The word change became one of the buzzwords of the
electoral campaign. The result was that the new Slovak government, under Prime
Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda, could begin the process of transforming Slovakia, giving
the country the opportunity to take its place in the community of democracies. In the
new parliament, parties previously in the opposition had a constitutional majority
(93 of 150 seats), enough to make changes in a decisive manner after four years
of “Mečiarism”. Despite the broad variety of their political programs, ideological
profi les and different approaches to solving societal problems, they were committed
to principles of democracy and supported the integration of Slovakia into the EU and
One of the remarkable features of the campaign was the previously unseen outburst
of creativity it unleashed. New and imaginative techniques and approaches were
applied, including interactive communication, TV spots in the style of MTV and so
on. The youngest voters liked the elements of irony and ridicule, poking fun at the
obtuseness of the authoritarian mentality. In some situations, the campaign took on
34 According to a survey carried out by the FOCUS agency in November 1998 in cooperation with
the International Republican Institute, 19 percent of fi rst-time voters and 9 percent of all voters
stated that it was the NGO campaign that encouraged them to participate in the elections.
35 While 38 percent of respondents gave the campaign a grade of 1 or 2, only 8 percent rated
it with a 4 or 5 (1-positive, 5-negative). Only 11 percent of citizens regarded the activities of the
OK ‘98 campaign as being useless although harmless. The signifi cance of the campaign was most
appre ciate d by p e ople wi th hig her e duc ation; s e e Zor a Bú torová, “D evelopment of Public O pinion:
from Discontent to the Support of Political Change”, in: Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora
Bútorová and Sharon Fisher (eds.), The 1998 Parliamentary Elections and Democratic Rebirth in
Slovakia (Institute for Public Affairs, Bratislava, 1999), op cit.
Martin Bútora

an almost “carnival character”. This mobilized a degree of dynamism, romanticism,
passion and excess, important in at least two respects. First, it encouraged people’s
feeling of communion and togetherness in a kindred collective spirit. Second, it was
an attractive and fresh alternative to the grayness of an authoritarian-bureaucratic
regime, its institutions, symbols and offi cials. A feeling of “justifi ed ownership” took
hold of the country. For thousands of people, especially young people, the campaign
was an important emotional experience. Similar eruptions of creativity have taken
place in other countries under similar circumstances (Serbia and Ukraine, for
example) but Slovakia was the fi rst case of decisive national elections in which
creativity played such an important role. A further and related key to success was
the “ethos of victory” presented by the campaign to the outside world, contrasting
with the often gloomy mood of the general public. This was important in helping
citizens to overcome their fear of political participation and civic activism, fear that
is a hallmark of authoritarian societies.
Gaining the trust of the citizens was important to the success of the OK ‘98
36 It succeeded in doing so, fi lling the gap between the passive position
of isolated individuals and the competing political parties. Even though the election
was carried out in accordance with the then election law (unfair as it was), it was
deemed not to have been manipulated. This can be attributed to the presence
of local and international observers and the parallel vote count conducted by the
members of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), mobilized successfully by the
The large-scale involvement of citizens in political life, images of town squares packed
with people, along with occasions of euphoria, brought back memories of November
1989, when the communist regime in Czechoslovakia collapsed. Nevertheless, if
compared to the Velvet Revolution, there are striking differences. First, unlike in
1989 when change was only vaguely conceptualized, 1998 saw one clear and
crucial demand: Slovaks wanted more democracy. Secondly, the leaders of the
1989 opposition were largely unknown to the public. In September 1998, Slovaks
opted for change by voting for politicians who were publicly known from previous
high profi le political battles. Third, the changes of 1989 were rather unexpected
and came about without the long-term active engagement of the majority of citizens.
In 1998, Slovaks had to make a conscious effort to bring about political change.
When it did happen, it was instigated primarily from within, at the initiative of Slovak
society and fed largely by its own resources, ideas and values.
These important differences notwithstanding, the events of November 1989
and September 1998 are linked by their political signifi cance. In both cases, a
36 See Zora Bútorová and Martin Bútora, Mimovládne organizácie a dobrovoľníctvo na Slovensku
očami verejnej mienky (SPACE – Centrum pre analýzu sociálnej politiky, Bratislava, 1996) and
Zuzana Fialová, Neziskový sektor na stránkach slovenskej tlače (SPACE – Centrum pre analýzu
sociálnej politiky, Bratislava, 1997).

full turnabout was achieved in the political orientation of the country. The 1998
elections in Slovakia were not merely about a move towards the left or right of the
political spectrum. Instead, they represented a choice between two alternatives:
the continuation of a non-democratic, semi-authoritarian trend, or the return to the
original ideals of 1989, towards democracy and an open society, the rule of law and
a market economy. In this sense, the 1998 elections represented a “delayed” or
“second” Velvet Revolution and OK ‘98 was one of its key catalysts.
Long-Term Effects on Democracy in Slovakia
Slovak NGOs did not disappear from the public scene after the elections. Civil
society considered it important to avoid the well-known “burn-out” effect following
large-scale social mobilization. NGOs wanted to preserve some fundamental
mechanisms of integration, communication and cooperation within civil society, to
consolidate their credibility in the eyes of the public, to continue to act as watchdogs
of democratic governance and to defi ne a new agenda for improving the quality of
With this in mind, Slovak civic organizations held an extraordinary conference
at the end of September 1998 in Stupava, the result of which was a call for the
continuation of public oversight, for the extensive decentralization of the state and
the strengthening of local self-government and for the acceptance of civic initiatives
as equal partners in governance, which would require revised tax legislation
to facilitate the sustainability of civil society. In October 1998, a number of civic
associations called on the former democratic opposition to adhere to their pre-
election agreements and to include the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) in the
new government. In November 1998, dozens of NGOs and hundreds of individuals
addressed the government with an open letter entitled “We want real change!”,
challenging it “not to confuse tolerance with a lack of principle in judging those who
are responsible for criminal acts and for the widespread devastation of the country
and society”, asking them not to “misinterpret the change in society simply as a new
division of power and government seats, but to see it rather as a principal change in
the manner of managing public affairs”.
More broadly, and in accordance with a continued shift “from politics to public
policies”, several NGOs, NGO coalitions and platforms became actively involved
in promoting a variety of public policy issues and some developed over time into
powerhouses of structural reform. They prepared analyses, special studies and
publications on democratic governance, the rule of law and human rights, economic
and social reforms, the environment, foreign policy, corruption, the problems of
37 See Martin Bútora and Zora Bútorová, “Slovakia’s Democratic Awakening”, Journal of
Democracy vol. 10, no. 1 (January 1999), pp. 80-95.
Martin Bútora

the Roma community, gender issues, education and many other challenges facing
Several of the successful reforms Slovakia implemented since 1998, or the initial
reform concepts, were conceived or debated in independent think tanks before
they gained a practical political foothold. In “making change happen”, civil society
exerted its infl uence through the media, put pressure on political actors, defended
public interests, appealed to citizens at large and initiated new legislation. Domestic
advocacy was supplemented by the development of the role of Slovak civil society in
international democracy assistance. Several NGOs active in the OK ‘98 campaign,
used their experience to support democratic efforts elsewhere in Central and Eastern
Europe, lending assistance to activists in Croatia, Serbia, and later in Ukraine and
Belarus, among others. Slovak NGOs have also become active in development
assistance, through technical assistance in the Balkans and humanitarian missions
in Africa and Asia.
The continued role of civil society in strengthening democracy inside Slovakia has
taken the form of civic campaigns on several further occasions. In 2000, a campaign
demanding the thorough reform of public administration and its decentralization
(Za skutočnú reformu verejnej správy) was launched. The Civic Initiative for a Good
Information Act under the slogan of “What Is Not Secret Should Be Made Public”
launched in 2000 was supported by over 120 nongovernmental organizations
associating over 100,000 members. This alliance and its successful appeal to
the public resulted in groundbreaking legislation that grants citizens free access
to information and requires civil servants to provide it. In 2001, campaigns were
launched to ensure the enactment of a strict law on waste management (Za dobrý
zákon o odpadoch) and to highlight government responsibility for coping with ethnic
intolerance (Rasizmus je aj Tvoj problem).
Part of civil society again engaged in specifi c election-related activities in the run-
up to the 2002 parliamentary elections. However, the overall climate in society was
very different from that in 1998. While the fear and tension of the Mečiar years had
waned, so had the enthusiasm of 1998 and unfulfi lled expectations gave rise to
skepticism among many who had supported democratic change four years earlier.
This depressed social climate gave rise to concerns that radical and national-
populist parties would receive strong support, with likely negative effects on further
democratic reform and Euroatlantic integration. Compared to 1998, NGO activities
in the 2002 elections were more elaborate and sophisticated.
38 Priority was given
to information, education and motivation activities to ensure the highest possible
turnout. Evaluations of the government’s performance compared to its original
38 Peter Novotný, Daniel Forgács and Marián Velšic, “Non-Governmental Organizations in the
2002 Elections”, in: Grigorij Mesežnikov, Oľga Gyárfášová, Miroslav Kollár and Tom Nicholson,
Slovak Elections ‘02. Results, Consequences, Context (Institute for Public Affairs, Bratislava,

program, examinations of the fulfi llment of pre-election promises and analyses
of political party programs helped voters in making election decisions. Many civic
groups aimed their projects at specifi c target groups (youth, Roma, women) or
themes (social policy, foreign policy, economic reform, rural development).
Two highly visible activities were the “Nie je nám to jedno” (We Are Not Indifferent)
and “Šetri si svoj hlas na september” (Save Your Voice for September – hlas in
Slovak means both “voice” and “vote”). The authors of the “We Are Not Indifferent”
campaign, Občianske Oko (Civic Eye) and Hlava ‘98 (Head ‘98), used an unusual
tactic to get people to join the initiative. They asked them to put their fi ngerprints on
the petition sheet supporting election participation, and to write personal statements
as to “why I am not indifferent”.
The infl uence of all these activities is most noticeable when one looks at results for
fi rst-time voters. While before the summer of 2002, only 50 percent of eligible fi rst-
time voters had decided to vote, during the summer (the peak of NGO campaigning)
this fi gure had reached 70 percent. While the contribution of such activity to
increasing voter turnout is very diffi cult to quantify, it is sure that had NGOs not
campaigned before the elections, the turnout would have been far lower. The result
was unequivocal, with a new government that ensured the continuity of democratic
development, bringing Slovakia into NATO and the EU, being elected.
Conclusion: Hallmarks of the OK ‘98 Campaign
The OK ‘98 campaign owed its success to several favorable circumstances. Its
innovative character proved important. Although OK ‘98 was not the fi rst of its kind,
as comparable efforts had preceded presidential elections in Romania and Bulgaria
previously, the organizers could not draw on generally applicable models. But, this
could also be said of the opponents of democratic change, who underestimated the
effectiveness of civil society driven voter mobilization and who did not put in place
measures to obstruct its efforts.
The heritage of the nonviolent struggle of 1989 and the accumulation of experience
from previous civic initiatives in Slovakia proved critical. These provided a degree
of tested cooperation, mutual trust and personal connections between civic actors
and organizations, which was a valuable basis for conducting OK ‘98. Cooperation
among democratic political forces was another important factor: an alliance for
democracy emerged that included opposition political parties. They had to learn
39 Altogether, the activists collected 15,000 fi ngerprints and hundreds of personal statements.
The second phase of the campaign culminated in press advertisements, rock concerts, public
appeals by respected fi gures, a series of 19 television spots and a concert tour, which visited
14 cities in Slovakia; see Peter Novotný, Daniel Forgács and Marián Velšic, “Non-Governmental
Organizations in the 2002 Elections”, in: Grigorij Mesežnikov, Oľga Gyárfášová, Miroslav Kollár
and Tom Nicholson, Slovak Elections ‘02. Results, Consequences, Context (Institute for Public
Affairs, Bratislava, 2003), op cit.
Martin Bútora

from their earlier defeats at the hands of disunity and a lack of cooperation.
Moreover, this civic mobilization should be seen as one of the more recent building
blocks of democratic modernization in Slovakia. Especially after independence,
Slovak society needed to mature politically and overcome its traditional passivity.
The country needed to develop responsibility for its own affairs and for proposing
constructive alternatives, the habit of public engagement beyond “rebellion”. The
OK ‘98 campaign was a refl ection of the marriage of intelligent civic defi ance and a
positive vision for the future.
Slovak NGOs were also successful in breaking into the public domain, previously
colonized by authoritarian politicians. Whereas in the past, political communication
usually fl owed from Prime Minister Mečiar in the direction of the opposition, the
pro-democracy camp succeeded in reversing the direction of communication.
This was instrumental in mobilizing a broad based change-oriented constituency,
another factor of importance. The OK ‘98 campaign appealed to fi rst-time voters
and to an educated, urban, constituency that often showed below-average turnout.
These groups were decisive for the result. The appeal to change-oriented voters
was persuasive because of the creative input of professionals specializing in “social
campaigns”, whose participation was characteristic. Artists, media professionals
and others from the nongovernmental milieu lent their skill with enthusiasm and
belief in change, rather than performing yet another professional assignment.
Critically important was also the reluctance of the authorities to resort to extreme
measures and/or to manipulating the elections on this occasion. Exceptions
notwithstanding, the incumbent political elite was not ready to brutally violate
standard procedures. Its formal adherence to democratic principles, not least
to avoid jeopardizing its international legitimacy, created suffi cient space to
challenge the government through elections. Further, Slovakia enjoyed a favorable
international environment. The country’s Visegrad neighbors were well on their way
to EU and NATO membership, and both organizations and their member states were
well disposed to embracing Slovakia under a democratic government. Several of
them provided political and fi nancial support. In Slovakia, EU conditionality played
a seminal role.
Finally, the Slovak story has become an inspiring example for some other countries,
even if this has to date not been suffi ciently refl ected in the media and academic
literature on “electoral revolutions”.
40 The experience of OK ‘98 was used in 1999
in Croatia, systematically studied and applied in Serbia 2000 41 and the intensive
communication of former OK ‘98 activists with civic leaders was useful in Ukraine
in 2004.
40 Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik, “Favorable Conditions and Electoral Revolutions”,
Journal of Democracy, vol. 17, no. 4 (October 2006), pp. 5-18.
41 That Pavol Demeš was presented with the Democracy and Civil Society Award by Serbian NGOs
in 2000 is a refl ection of this fact.

Slovak activists agreed that the fact that similar campaigns were carried out in other
countries previously was encouraging and motivating. 42 In Slovakia, it was not just any
“campaign”. It helped to achieve “a political earthquake”, a real breakthrough that
was not pre-determined from the outset. It has shown that a vital civil society can
signifi cantly infl uence political processes in societies that have rulers that engage
in authoritarian practices. Today, after campaigns in Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and
Georgia, this sounds more familiar, but this was not as obvious in 1997 to 1998.
Successful campaigns are “domestic products”, developed from within the country
and are heavily dependent on local circumstances, traditions and culture. Yet, some
techniques are transferable, for instance, training civil observers, organizers and
moderators of candidate forums, media monitoring and get-out-the-vote activities,
especially for young people. The universality of engaging people is also crucial,
“encouraging them to become engaged because it is fun, not because it is a duty”.
Slovak activists have emphasized the need for a dedicated domestic leadership,
committed to a common goal, engaged in cooperation and service, being able to
develop and maintain good relations with the media, legal experts, politicians, labor
unions, mayors, churches and the international community.
The Slovak experience has confi rmed that under favorable circumstances, illiberal
trends may be reversed through free elections. Since 1998, populist autocrats have
learned lessons and seem to have become more effective in preventing freedom-
loving citizens from challenging their rule. Overcoming contemporary authoritarian
regimes will, therefore, require new thinking and new procedures. In doing so, it
might be useful to take a fresh look at the Slovak story of 1998 and afterwards.
January 7, 1997
Opposition political parties launch a petition to demand a referendum on direct
presidential elections. Supported by civic activists, 520,000 signatures are collected,
enough for the petition to be considered valid.
42 “It showed us the way, the light appeared at the end of the tunnel and I think that vision was
fundamental for OK ‘98’s efforts”, confi rmed Marek Kapusta. “Because at the beginning only a
handful of people believed it would be possible, and that something could really be changed by
our activities and exactly that positive example of Romania and Bulgaria (…) the bare fact that it
is possible, that it has been done in three countries already, is a fascinating thing, I think”; quoted
in: Oľga Berecká, Natália Kušnieriková and Dušan Ondrušek, NGO Campaign for Free and Fair
Elections. OK ‘98 – Lessons Learned (Partners for Democratic Change, Bratislava, 1999), op cit.
43 Jan Surotchak, quoted in: Oľga Berecká, Natália Kušnieriková and Dušan Ondrušek, NGO
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections. OK ‘98 – Lessons Learned (Partners for Democratic
Change, Bratislava, 1999), op cit.
Martin Bútora

February 14, 1997
In an attempt to obstruct the petition, the ruling coalition in the Slovak parliament
calls for a referendum on Slovakia’s accession to NATO, although the country has
not been invited to join.
March 13, 1997
President Michal Kováč decides to combine both issues in one referendum
scheduled for May 23, 1997. Civic organizations and prominent personalities
encourage citizens to participate, in order for the referendum to reach the required
50 percent turnout.
May 24, 1997
After the government reprints the ballots, removing the question on direct
presidential elections, the central referendum commission declares the referendum
void and asks for an investigation. On recommendation by the opposition, the vast
majority of voters refuse to participate, resulting in 9.8 percent turnout. Following
the referendum, civil society begins discussions on how to ensure free and fair
July 8, 1997
The Madrid NATO Summit formally invites Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary
to join the Alliance. Slovakia is not even mentioned among likely future candidates.
July 15, 1997
A European Commission report on ten countries aspiring to EU membership singles
out Slovakia as the only country not meeting the Copenhagen political criteria.
Summer 1997
Informal debates among civic leaders result in preparations for a national conference
to discuss the role of the NGOs in democratic elections.
October 1, 1997
Mikuláš Dzurinda from the opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition, a newly created
coalition of opposition parties, asks the government to invite international election
observers. In response, Prime Minister Mečiar claims that “Slovakia can guarantee
democratic elections alone”.
October 28 – 29, 1997
The Fifth Annual Stupava Conference of the Third Sector, a countrywide gathering of
NGOs, is held in Košice. Entitled “Working Actively for Democracy”, the conference
ends with a declaration in support of NGO activities to improve citizen information
and to create conditions for free and fair parliamentary elections in 1998. The
conference also calls for the presence of international observers.

November 6 – 9, 1997
Results of the Košice conference are presented to international donor organizations
at an informal meeting in Brussels.
December 15, 1997
A m e e t i n g i n V i e n n a b r i n g s t o g e t h e r r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s o f S l o v a k N G O s w i t h i n t e r n a t i o n a l
donors. Civic activists from Bulgaria and Romania share their experiences from pre-
election activities in their countries.
End December 1997
Principles of a civic campaign are discussed. Pavol Demeš, a leader of the Third
Sector SOS campaign in 1996 and spokesman of the Gremium of the Third Sector,
proposes a positively oriented campaign promoting the democratization of Slovak
January 10, 1998
Representatives of democracy and advocacy NGOs participate in the founding
meeting of the campaign at the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO). Agreement is reached
on the name of the initiative: Civic Campaign OK ‘98. Subsequently, members of
this group and representatives of the Gremium of the Third Sector and the Donors’
Forum compose the coordination council of the campaign.
January 29, 1998
President Kováč visits Washington. The Helsinki Commission of the U.S. Congress
expresses concern that “the regularity of the Slovak elections is not fully secured”.
January – February 1998
The coordination council develops the campaign strategy and seeks support in
the NGO community and among donors. Informal communication begins with
representatives of democratic opposition parties.
March 3, 1998
President Kováč’s term of offi ce ends and Prime Minister Mečiar acquires interim
presidential powers, which he uses to pardon associates and persons implicated
in abuses of power and legal violations. Over 50 civic leaders representing 35
nongovernmental organizations attend a meeting in Zvolen. The OK ‘98 campaign
is declared as an open nonpartisan public initiative that is designed to ensure free
and fair parliamentary and local elections. The participants announce nationwide
civic mobilization and promise to resist any violations of the democratic process in
April 1998
The Slovak Donors’ Forum launches a program to support civic initiatives related to
the elections. It creates a standardized format and procedure for nonpartisan NGO
projects to access fi nancial support provided by European and U.S. donors.
Martin Bútora

Spring 1998
The coordination council creates a three-member executive committee to support
fl exible communication with civic initiatives, ensure contact with domestic and foreign
institutions and experts and establish partnerships and coalitions. A campaign
secretariat is set up at the Foundation for a Civil Society in Bratislava. Several
regional ad hoc coalitions of NGOs are created to design strategies targeting local
needs. Regional coordination meetings are held in Košice, Zvolen and Stupava.
May 20, 1998
Despite international criticism, the governing coalition moves to amend the election
law, requiring each party in any coalition to receive fi ve percent of the votes, in
the wake of growing support for the democratic opposition platform, the Slovak
Democratic Coalition (SDK).
Summer 1998
Nearly 60 independent projects within the OK ‘98 campaign are launched. Taking
place across Slovakia, these include dozens of information events and discussion
forums, 13 rock concerts, TV spots and radio programs, several media monitoring
projects and trainings for 1,700 election observers, six public opinion polls, regular
press conferences and, during a “March through Slovakia”, the mass distribution
of election-related information to citizens, altogether 500,000 brochures, 570,600
leafl ets, 197,500 posters, 253,000 postcards and 375,010 stickers.
June 4, 1998
The Democratic Round Table is launched and attended by four democratic opposition
parties and four nonpartisan actors. Seven meetings of the round table will be held
in the run-up to the elections.
August 18, 1998
Under international pressure, the Slovak foreign ministry offi cially invites an OSCE
monitoring mission to observe the parliamentary elections. The government refuses
any involvement of domestic observers and one of its offi cials labels Slovak NGOs
engaged in election monitoring as provocateurs.
September 25 – 26, 1998
Parliamentary elections are held. The democratic opposition wins 93 of 150 seats,
with turnout estimated at 84.2 percent.
September 27, 1998
An OSCE report gives a positive evaluation of the elections and praises the high
turnout. It criticizes the election law, biased coverage by state television and “the
failure to accredit domestic observers”.

October 30, 1998
The new Slovak government, consisting of the four parties of the democratic
opposition and headed by Mikuláš Dzurinda, is appointed. The new government
promises to overcome the democratic defi cits in the country, renew the reform
process and pursue swift Euroatlantic integration.
“Road for Slovakia” volunteers, summer 1998, in t-shirts sporting the slogan. “Think? Vote? YES,
Civic Campaign OK ‘98”.
Election related brochure distributed during “Road for Slovakia”. The back cover reads: “The
parliamentary elections will take place on 25-26 September 1998. On these days you have the choice
to go to the mountains, clean out the basement, go away on holiday, visit relatives on the other side of
Slovakia, make sauerkraut, vote, forget about the elections and complain to the heavens”.
Martin Bútora

OK ‘98 volunteers with the Slovak national fl ag handing out information brochures in the
countryside. Marek Kapusta, coordinator of the “Rock the
Vote” campaign, Košice, summer 1998. OK ‘98 volunteers involved in a theatre

15 days before the elections: The dollar
driven OK ‘98 campaign bus with activists.14 days before the elections: “Mushroom
season in Slovakia”. A fi eld full of poisonous
mushrooms (international organisations)
surrounding Slovakia’s “Free Democratic
3 days before the elections: “Don’t get excited!
I’m a ‘civic’ observer …”.2nd day of the elections: “The ‘anti-Slovak’
foreign (foundation) lobby”.
9 days after the elections: “A well deserved
rest after a job well done!”. Spokesperson
of the Gremium of the Third Sector, Pavol
Demeš, relaxing with a “Soros” cigar.
Martin Bútora
Anti–OK ‘98 cartoons published in Slovenská
Republika, a pro-government newspaper,
September 1998.


Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić
When Croatia’s January 2000 parliamentary elections brought about the
overwhelming defeat of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), observers initially
expressed new hope for the country, seeing the election results as a sign of re-
invigorated democratization. Following Slovakia, Croatia was the second country in
Central and Eastern Europe to experience the defeat of a semi-authoritarian regime
through a “peaceful civic revolution” or electoral breakthrough, later serving as an
inspiration for political changes in Serbia and elsewhere in the region. While the
election results were partly a consequence of HDZ’s own mistakes, they were also
the result of two additional factors: the growing unity of Croatia’s political opposition
and the strengthening role of civil society organizations in changing public
discourse. On both accounts, foreign actors were key: in line with the approach that
brought peaceful regime change to Slovakia in 1998, the international community
encouraged cooperation among the six main opposition parties and provided
funding and training for civil society organizations, culminating in the launch of a
get-out-the-vote campaign prior to the elections.
This chapter focuses on the pre-election campaign run by Croatian nongovernmental
organizations. It deals primarily with the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections,
commonly known as GLAS 99, which means both “voice” and “vote” in the Croatian
language. GLAS 99 was modeled on Slovakia’s OK ‘98 campaign and its organization
was greatly helped by the international support it received. Although it is impossible
to quantify its role precisely, the pre-election campaign of Croatian civil society
organizations helped to guarantee a high turnout in the elections, at the same time
as ensuring that the population’s frustration was not channeled into radical parties.
Achieving a high turnout was especially important because undecided voters,
particularly youth and inhabitants of urban areas, were widely expected to back the
opposition rather than the ruling par ties, if they could only be motivated to vote. The
positive impact of the Croatian NGO sector’s pre-election get-out-the-vote campaign
was demonstrated not only by the 75 percent election turnout, which was high
considering that the elections were held on January 3, immediately after New Year’s
Day, but also by the fact that the opposition parties won an overwhelming majority
This chapter is based on research conducted by Sharon Fisher for the book Political Change in
Postcommunist Slovakia and Croatia: From Nationalist to Europeanist (Palgrave Macmillan, New
York , 20 0 6).

in the parliament. Although GLAS 99 was successful as a once-off pre-election
campaign, assisting in bringing about political change, the longer-term effects of its
activities are not as readily apparent. One undeniable benefi t was that the campaign
abolished the culture of fear that prevented voices of political dissent from speaking
out against the political and social injustices of Croatia’s authoritarian regime.
The fi rst section of this chapter offers a brief overview of Croatia’s politics and
society during the 1990s, looking at political factors as well as the development of
civil society, including both NGOs and the media. The second section examines the
emergence of the GLAS 99 campaign, investigating its initiators and the lessons
that they learned from Slovakia’s example. The third section looks at the campaign’s
approach and activities, while also providing detail on the structures and resources
underlying them. Finally, the fourth section deals with the lessons that can be
learned from the campaign, as well as its aftermath and the outlook for the future.
Politics, Society and Civic Initiatives
in Croatia during the 1990s
In relation to other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Croatia was in many
ways in an advantageous position during the communist period because of
the openness of the Yugoslav regime and because its citizens were allowed to
travel and work abroad. Nonetheless, Croatian civil society was slow to develop.
Although the Republic could boast the 1971 Croatian Spring protest movement,
its character was generally considered more nationalist than liberalizing, with its
main triggers being concerns such as the transfer of Croatia’s economic wealth
to poorer republics within Yugoslavia and the recognition of Croatian and Serbian
as separate languages.
2 While initially fi nding favor in the eyes of Yugoslav leader
Josip Broz Tito, the movement was crushed in December 1971 out of concern that
it was getting out of hand, with comparisons to the situation in Croatia’s Nazi-allied
Ustaša state during World War II abounding. During the rest of the 1970s and most
of the 1980s, civil society activity in Croatia was largely stifl ed and the political
opposition remained weak. Any subsequent manifestations of nationalism or calls
for liberalization were perceived in Belgrade as a step back toward the World War II
Ustaša state. Some Croatians accounted for the lack of widespread dissidence by the
fact that the regime was never repressive enough to warrant it. Nonetheless, social
movements fl ourished in neighboring Slovenia in the 1980s, particularly among
young people, environmentalists, pacifi sts, feminists and homosexuals, forcing
2 See Barbara Jelavich, History of the Balkans: Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, 1983), pp. 396-397.

the ruling communist party to soften its stance. 3 That contributed to a shift of the
centers of political dialogue from Belgrade and Zagreb to Belgrade and Ljubljana.
Signs of activity in Croatian civil society did start to emerge during the last years of
the communist period, particularly in the area of women’s issues and environmental
protection. For example, the group Women and Society was formed in 1979, and
although it was primarily an academic circle, it became the cradle for many future
civic initiatives among women. Moreover, with the problem of domestic violence
emerging as an important issue, Women and Society helped to establish an
emergency hotline for women in 1989, the fi rst of its kind in Central and Eastern
Europe. By the late 1980s, a lively opposition movement had emerged, refl ected
partly in the launch of two liberal weekly magazines: Start and Danas.
After 1990, when Croatia’s fi rst multi-party elections brought about the end of
communism and the formation of a one-party government led by the HDZ, the focus
on the national question again took precedence over questions of democratization
and economic liberalization. President Franjo Tuđman led Croatia through a war of
independence that served to heighten nationalism and increase allegiance to the
new state and the ruling HDZ. During much of the 1990s, the political opposition
gave the impression of helplessness in the face of government policies. In certain
respects this was understandable, given HDZ’s domination of the Croatian political
scene. The party won an absolute majority in seven national elections during the
1990s. Those victories were partly the result of manipulation of the electoral system,
but also a refl ection of the tense political atmosphere created by HDZ, which tended
to label independent elements in society as “enemies” of the nation.
Still, much of the blame for the opposition’s weak position lay with the parties
themselves, as they lacked unity and were reluctant to launch serious protests
against the HDZ regime or even to move into the traditional role of the primary critic
of government.
5 One of the central questions for Croatia’s opposition during the
1990s was whether and to which extent to cooperate with HDZ, and a number of
opposition representatives suggested that a period of cohabitation with HDZ would
be appropriate for the transition to democratic rule. Meanwhile, the church, rather
than the political opposition, was the fi rst to call attention to HDZ’s unfair approach
to economic policy. In his Christmas message in 1997, Archbishop Josip Bozanić
pointed to the country’s diffi cult social situation and criticized the fact that a few
government offi cials were quickly growing rich at the expense of the average citizen,
while the great majority of the population was becoming poorer.
6 Only later did the
3 See Tomaž Mastnak, “Civil Society in Slovenia: From Opposition to Power”, in: Paul G. Lewis
(ed.), Democracy and Civil Society in Eastern Europe (Macmillan, London, 1992), pp. 134-151.
4 “Danas” means “today” in Croatian language.
5 See Zoran Daskalovic, “Tuđman Triumphs Over Divided Opposition”, War Report, no. 51 (May
1997), pp. 3-5, and Jelena Lovrić, “Who Will Lead the Mass Protests?”, AIM, September 20,
6 RFE/RL Newsline, December 12, 1997.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

main opposition party, the postcommunist Social Democratic Party (SDP), begin to
present itself as a real social alternative to HDZ.
After the liberation of the Krajina region from Serbian control in 1995, the Croatian
public started to distance itself from nationalism, as ordinary people no longer
perceived any real threat to the country’s existence. While opposition to HDZ was
weak during the early 1990s, in the second half of the decade competing elites
gradually learned from their earlier mistakes and started to cooperate and intensify
their efforts at bringing about political change. That was true not only of the political
opposition, but also of civil society organizations, including civic groups, trade
unions and the media. The media were especially important in turning people away
from the ruling p ar tie s , a s journali s t s tende d to b e f ar more daring than p oli tician s in
questioning national myths. While Croatia’s three “state-wide” television channels,
as well as most daily newspapers, remained under strong government control
throughout the 1990s, a few voices in the media were consistently anti-nationalist,
including the weekly Feral Tribune, the daily Novi list (New Paper), as well as ARKzin,
a monthly journal published by the Anti–War Campaign (ARK). Of equal importance
were the sensationalist tabloid weeklies Globus (Globe) and Nacional (National),
which continually dug up dirt on scandals related to the HDZ and generally reached
a wider audience than publications such as the Feral Tribune.
In addition to the media, trade unions played a crucial role in developing an
alternative public discourse, particularly on economic issues. While Croatian workers
were reluctant to demonstrate against the government before 1996 because of the
need to present a unifi ed front during a time of war, trade unions staged frequent
protests during the second half of the 1990s, beginning with a one-day strike at
Croatian Post and Telecommunications in February 1996. Subsequently, metal
workers, pensioners, teachers, research workers and railway employees launched
demonstrations, mainly to protest their weak economic and social positions. As the
economic situation deteriorated further in the late 1990s, and as the lavish lifestyles
of those with connections to HDZ became increasingly apparent, the strength of the
trade union movement grew.
As in the case of other elements of Croatian society, the country’s NGO sector was
slow to emerge as a critic of government, partly because of the war, but also because
of obstacles put in place by the ruling elite. The NGO community was not popular with
the HDZ, an attitude that was hardly surprising given the party’s general reluctance
to relinquish control to groups that were beyond it s infl uence. Together with it s allies
in the media, HDZ worked to promote a negative image of NGOs. One key criticism
was that NGOs were controlled by the foreign “enemy” and aimed at subverting
the Republic. For example, in 1996, Tuđman accused western foundations and
embassies of supporting the Croatian opposition and vowed to crack down on

“foundations, organizations and individuals” funded by foreign sources for “often
illegal and subversive intentions.” He continued by referring to such organizations
as “tools in the hands of foreign powers” aimed at “undermining the government”.
In 1998, pro-HDZ journalist Milan Ivkošić wrote that “80 percent of the activists
from women’s and similar marginal organizations are Serbs, and the rest are more
or less Croats with political or family backgrounds in the Yugoslav secret service,
the Yugoslav police, or Yugoslav army offi cers”. He added that women in those NGOs
“present in their personal lives a model that directly opposes that of the ideal and
desirable Croatian family”, meaning that they are “married without children”, “old
but unmarried” or “lesbians”. Ivkošić concluded that these groups would be “quite
insignifi cant” without the support they received from abroad.
8 One organization that
was subjected to special criticism was George Soros’ Open Society Institute.
In addition to verbal attacks, HDZ tried to stifl e the third sector through legislation.
Although an estimated 20,000 civic associations were registered in Croatia in the
mid-1990s, new legislation contributed to reducing that number.
9 The parliament
approved a law on associations in July 1997, giving the state the authority to control
the work of NGOs, impose hefty fi nes and to ban groups on suspicion of acting
illegally. Existing organizations were required to reregister by January 1998. However,
only a small percentage was actually in a position to do.
10 The group Attack, for
example, had problems registering as the new law prohibited organizations from
using foreign names.
Although verbal and legislative attacks created a diffi cult working environment for
NGO activists, a number of enthusiasts in Croatia continued their efforts, and a whole
new set of NGOs conducting activities relating to the war and its effects emerged.
One of the most important centers of activism was the Anti-War Campaign (ARK),
which was founded in 1991. A number of other politically conscious organizations
grew out of ARK, forming a network of NGOs in Zagreb and the countryside that
was aimed at building peace, bringing about reconciliation, strengthening human
rights and protecting the rights of women. Many peace activists worked in the
Western Slavonian town of Pakrac,
12 creating a project called Pakrac’s Volunteers
that distributed humanitarian aid, provided legal assistance, worked with victims
of war trauma and held educational workshops for youth and women. Such groups
did not discriminate based on nationality, so they gained signifi cant funding and
recognition from the international donor community. Women’s groups continued to
7 AP, December 12, 1996.
8 Večernji list, June 14, 1998.
9 Milivoj Đilas, “NGOs in Croatia”, AIM, September 22, 1999.
10 Feral Tribune, January 19, 1998.
11 Milivoj Đilas, “NGOs in Croatia”, AIM, September 22, 1999, op cit.
12 Prior to the war, Pakrac’s population was 46 percent Serb and 36 percent Croat, with the rest
consisting of a smattering of twenty national minorities; see Laura Silber and Allan Little, The
Death of Yugoslavia (Penguin and BBC, London, 1995), pp. 134-135, 146.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

fl ourish through the 1990s, forming a central element of Croatian civil society in the
postcommunist period by addres sing such problems as female war victims, political
participation and abortion rights. Somewhat surprisingly, the environmental groups
that were a key center of dissent during the last years of the communist regime
The Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (HHO) was established in 1993,
helping to raise awareness of the importance of human rights as a key public issue.
That was especially true after the 1995 police and military operations that drove
the majority of ethnic Serbs out of Croatia, at which time the HHO became one
of the main defenders of the rights of Croatian Serbs. Ivan Zvonimir Čičak, who
served as the organization’s chairman from the time of its establishment until his
replacement in October 1998, ranked among the most controversial personalities
in Croatia. That was especially true due to the nature of HHO statements, which
brought domestic and international attention to a number of problems in Croatia,
including the atmosphere of intolerance against ethnic Serb returnees, the use of
“hate speech” in the media and the rise in political violence.
Written complaints and press conferences were among the common methods used by
many NGOs, but some groups focused on other means of protest to stimulate public
debate. Although NGO-sponsored events often failed to attract signifi cant crowds,
the Citizens’ Committee for Human Rights was known for its annual demonstrations
aimed at returning Zagreb’s Square of Croatian Heroes (Trg hrvatskih velikana) to
its communist era name, the Square of the Victims of Fascism (Trg žrtava fašizma).
The demonstrations traditionally included several well-known actresses and other
public fi gures and the 1999 protest became the subject of special attention when a
group of Ustaša sympathizers turned up and police chose to use violence against the
anti-fascists. Women’s groups also sponsored important forms of protest, including,
for example, the 1995 petition for legal and safe abortion that attracted 20,000
signatures and the demonstration in front of the parliament in March 1995, during
which activists questioned deputies on women’s issues.
Despite those positive steps forward, unity in the NGO sector was often lacking.
There was a split between some groups within the ARK network and those socially
oriented humanitarian NGOs that did not have their roots in the peace movement.
The work of many among the latter NGOs was seen as being primarily aimed at
helping ethnic Croats, having a fundamentally different view on basic questions such
as the war and nationalism. Efforts at cooperation were launched by groups such
as the umbrella group, the Center for the Development of Nonprofi t Organizations
(CERANEO), founded in 1995 in an attempt to strengthen the sector through the
organization of workshops and annual forums and the publication of a newsletter.
In 1996, more than 100 Croatian NGOs came together in an effort to amend the
government’s draft Law on Associations, even if unsuccessful. Nonetheless, unlike

the situation in Slovakia, where a similar campaign against a law on foundations
brought the NGO sector together, unity was short lived in Croatia.
It should be noted that the entire spectrum of values existed within Croatia’s NGO
sector and many organizations had close ties to the government. One example is the
Humanitarian Foundation for the Children of Croatia, of which President Tuđman’s
wife, Ankica, served as director in the 1990s. The organization benefi ted from
special privileges, including the right to place collection boxes in public places and
to distribute its fl yers on Croatia Airlines fl ights. Another NGO with HDZ ties was
the Foundation of the Croatian State Vow, whose director, Ivić Pašalić, was one of
President Tuđman’s closest advisors. The foundation offered student scholarships
and published a journal entitled Državnost (Statehood). In some ar ticles this journal
attempted to build a personality cult around Tuđman.
13 One of the most controversial
aspects of Croatian civil society during the Tuđman era were the numerous groups
of veterans and other victims from Croatia’s war of independence in the early
1990s, commonly known as the “Homeland War”. These veterans groups received
signifi cant funding from the state budget and had a privileged position in society.
Despite HDZ’s confrontational stance toward civil society organizations, in October
1998 the cabinet set up an Offi ce for Associations, which provided funds to
certain NGOs (including women’s groups), to which receiving government support
was previously unimaginable. That same month, the Croatian government co-
sponsored a three-day NGO fair in Zagreb, together with the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), intended as a gathering of organizations
focused on humanitarian questions and the protection of human rights. In the end,
the fair presented an awkward mix, attended by a wide range of NGOs, ranging from
feminists and pro-life groups to ethnic Serb organizations and groups defending the
interests of veterans of the recent “Homeland War”.
It is unclear why HDZ took a more favorable approach to the NGO sector in the
late 1990s, although its shifting stance may have been part of an attempt to
appease the international community, which was putting increasing emphasis on
the development of NGOs in the region. In May 1998, the European Union and the
United States awarded the Prize for Democracy and Civil Society to 50 organizations
and individuals from 29 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including three
from Croatia: the women’s human rights group Be active, Be emancipated (B.a.B.e.),
which was part of the ARK network, the Forum 21 media pressure group and the
Serbian Democratic Forum’s Legal Advice Centers. One HDZ publication from 1999
13 Tomislav Čadež, “Zaklada hrvatskog državnog zavjeta: kako se kultivira kult ličnosti”, Globus,
November 27, 1998, pp. 32-35.
14 See Sharon Fisher, “Contentious Politics in Croatia: The War Veterans’ Movement”, in: Petr
Kopecký and Cas Mudde (eds.), Uncivil Society? Contentious Politics in Postcommunist Europe
(Routledge, London, 2003), pp. 74-92.
15 See, for example, Goran Borković, “Smotra nevladinih udruga postala sajam taštine i
incidenata”, Vjesnik, November 5, 1998.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

recognized an individual country’s level of NGO development as a “basic indicator”
o f i t s d e mo c r ac y, ad ding t h a t “ t he ro l e o f C ro a t i an no ngove r nme n t al o r g aniz a t i o n s in
the development of Croatian democratic society has been large”.
16 As demonstrated
during the pre-election period, however, HDZ’s newly found affection for NGOs would
not last long.
Emerging Unity among Croatian Democrats:
The GLAS 99 Campaign
In certain respects, HDZ set the stage for its own defeat in the 2000 elections. This
was refl ected in the party’s controversial policies on the economy and its alienating
public discourse. In light of growing opposition during the second half of the 1990s,
HDZ was faced with the choice between altering its discourse in an attempt to expand
its shrinking constituency and risking defeat in the forthcoming elections. Although
there were various attempts by HDZ to move in the direction of the political center
after 1995, the shift never actually occurred. Instead of moderating its discourse,
the party further radicalized its rhetoric with the aim of frightening the population
about potential threats to the nation. For example, HDZ warned the electorate of
the catastrophes that an opposition victory would entail, including the restoration of
17 While HDZ had been successful in “feeling the pulse” of the population
in the early 1990s, the party appeared to have lost touch with ordinary voters, who
had become increasingly concerned with economic problems and limitations on
democracy, by the end of the decade. Opinion polls taken in late 1998 show that
the vast majority of citizens did not believe Tuđman’s discourse and was not fearful
for the nation’s future, even if the opposition did come to power.
18 Although Tuđman
had managed to pull together support for HDZ before previous elections, his death
in December 1999 threw the party into chaos.
Even with support for HDZ falling, it sometimes appeared that the political opposition
lacked the necessary unity to win the elections and form a new government.
However, with encouragement from the international community, some Croatians
looked to Slovakia as a model of coalition building.
19 It was the issue of electoral
legislation that fi nally brought together Croatia’s six main opposition parties, and
the Opposition Six held its fi rst meetings in September 1998 to work out a joint
draft election law.
20 The unity of the Opposition Six was signaled most notably by the
signing, on 30 November 1999, of the “Declaration on the Fundamental Direction of
16 Izborni pojmovnik HDZ-a, HDZ, Zagreb, 1999, p. 250.
17 See Ivo Žanić, “Tuđmanov ‘sovjetski’ diskurs”, Jutarnji list, December 9, 1998, and Zoran
Daskalović, “Tuđman Triumphs Over Divided Opposition”, War Report no. 51, May 1997, pp. 3-5.
18 See Globus, October 16, 1998, pp. 24-26 and December 18, 1998, pp. 16-17.
19 See interview with Deputy Chairman of the Croatian Social-Liberal Party (HSLS), Vilim Herman
in: Novi list, January 19, 1999.
20 Vjesnik, September 2, 1998; Večernji list, September 22 and 23, 1998.

Post-Election Activity”, in which the parties vowed to create a common government,
promised not to form a coalition with the HDZ and agreed on various policy issues.
Due to the fact that the electoral law was changed to a purely proportional system,
the six parties established two coalitions: the Coalition of Two and the Coalition of
Four. While the Coalition of Two included the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and
the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), the Coalition of Four grouped together
the conservative Croatian Peasants’ Party (HSS) with three small liberal parties,
including the Croatian People’s Party (HNS), the Liberal Party (LS) and the Istrian
Democratic Assembly (IDS).
In Croatian society, despite growing dissatisfaction among the population, the
extent of public protest was disappointingly low during the late 1990s, with passivity
and distrust prevailing. The property of “civic competence”
21 was slow to take hold,
meaning that the public mood was often characterized by a feeling of helplessness
concerning its ability to affect government policies, thereby reinforcing the political
culture of alienation that was inherited from the communist regime.
22 This was
also refl ected in decreasing interest in elections. Although voter turnout reached a
respectable 71 percent in the upper house elections in April 1997, only 55 percent
of eligible voters took part in the presidential elections in June of that year, despite
the opposition’s arguments that a large turnout was needed to force Tuđman into a
second-round runoff. Tuđman, therefore, prevailed in the fi rst round.
Shortly before the 2000 elections to the lower house of parliament, public opinion
polls revealed that the main issues of concern included high unemployment,
a low standard of living and pensions, rather than concerns about democracy.
The task of NGOs was to ensure that people had not completely lost hope and to
encourage them to come out and vote in the elections. Especially important were
the estimated 200,000 fi rst-time voters, representing more than fi ve percent of the
total electorate.
Many Croatian NGO representatives were doubtful about whether they would be
capable of running a get-out-the-vote campaign like the one in Slovakia in 1998.
One problem was the lack of unity in the NGO community, disjointed as a result
of personality confl icts, personal ambitions and deeper ideological debates that
plagued the sector throughout the 1990s. One group that was often criticized by
the rest of the NGO community for its lack of cooperation was HHO, which had by far
the most media coverage of any civic organization. The lack of a state-wide private
21 See Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy
in Five Nations (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1963), pp. 180-183.
22 Pavle Novosel, “Croatian Political Culture in Times of Great Expectations”, in: Fritz Plasser
and Andreas Pribersky (eds.), Political Culture in East Central Europe (Avebury, Aldershot, 1996),
pp. 109-110.
23 International Republican Institute, Istraživanje javnog mnijenja, November 1999, p. 8.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

television station on which to broadcast the campaign caused concern. 24 Unlike
in Slovakia, Croatia’s NGO community did not have the widespread respect of the
population. International donors had focused their efforts mainly on advocacy groups
that were promoting issues such as human and minority rights. In an economically
impoverished country, with a history of authoritarian political culture, NGO activists
whose salaries were paid by foreign agencies were perceived as careerists at best
or foreign spies at worst, rather than as professionals engaged in enhancing public
political consciousness.
Despite those challenges, the NGO community started discussions in February
1999 on the possibility of launching a Slovak-style campaign. A preliminary meeting
held that month was attended by representatives of HHO, OSI, ARK, Attack, the
environmental organization Zelena akcija (G r e e n A c t i o n), s e v e r a l w o m e n’s N G O s a n d
the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Croatian NGOs learned from
their Slovak counterparts through a number of seminars and exchanges sponsored
by the international community, marking the fi rst of many cases in which Slovak
NGO activists shared their experiences in an effort to help forge democracy abroad.
For example, at a Bratislava conference held in February 1999 that included NGO
representatives from Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, Slovak activists
shared their expertise, highlighting programs such as “Rock the Vote”, Občianske
oko (Civic Eye) (civic election observation) and MEMO ‘98 (media monitoring).
In March 1999, a group of intellectuals and NGO activists announced that
organizations and individuals engaged in developing democracy and civil society
would participate in the electoral campaign. The following day activists from women’s
groups said they would form a coalition for monitoring and infl uencing the elections.
The NGO sector fi nally came together in April and May 1999, with 35 groups uniting
to create the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections or GLAS 99. One month before
the elections, the number of organizations involved had reached 145 and was still
25 GLAS 99’s main task was to run a get-out-the-vote campaign prior to
the elections in an effort to ensure broader public participation in the democratic
process and to help steer people away from apathy and extremism.
Another group that was active throughout the pre-election period was Gradjani
organizovano nadgledaju glasanje or GONG (Citizens Organized to Monitor Elections),
which was established in early 1997 with the aim of conducting domestic election
observation and increasing the interest of voters in the electoral process. GONG
received signifi cant fi nancial support from USAID’s Offi ce of Transition Initiatives
(OTI) as well as training from the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI).
By the time of the 2000 elections, GONG was widely respected as a professional
and nonpartisan organization, partly since it had already scored a key victory in
24 Novi list, February 15, 1999; personal interview with Marija Raos of CERANEO, October 19,
25 Personal interview with GLAS 99 Director, Tin Gazivoda, December 10, 1999.

October 1998, when the constitutional court recognized the right of NGOs to send
domestic observers to elections, after police had prohibited GONG observers from
entering polling stations during by-elections in Dubrovnik earlier that month.
26 As
in the case of Slovakia, the presence of independent observers was especially
important in Croatia’s 2000 elections, since many citizens feared that HDZ would try
to manipulate the results.
The HDZ was clearly afraid of the application of the “Slovak model” to Croatia. In
his speech to HDZ’s tenth party congress in June 1999, Tuđman stressed that
“despite the fact that Croatia has friendly partner relations with some European
countries and the United States”, it is faced with “intense efforts by so-called
nongovernmental organizations that desire some other Croatia”. He warned that
such groups were trying “in any way possible” to use the elections to bring about
political change.
27 Shortly before Croatia’s parliamentary elections, former Slovak
Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar was interviewed by the pro-HDZ daily Večernji list
about the “Slovak model” and the international community’s role in his party’s 1998
electoral defeat.
28 That interview triggered a smear campaign against several U.S.
organizations in the pro-HDZ media. One article even referred to Mečiar as “living
proof” of how America decided who would win the Slovak elections.
GLAS 99: Activities, Structures and Resources
A l t h o u g h G L A S 9 9 h a d a c e n t r a l o f fi c e i n Z a g r e b c o o r d i n a t i n g c a m p a i g n a c t i v i t i e s , t h e
structure of the organization was meant to be as democratic as possible, with each
NGO having one vote in the general assembly. Tin Gazivoda, formerly a student in the
United States and the United Kingdom and an employee of HHO, became director
of the main offi ce. He was joined by Sonja Vuković (marketing coordinator), Darko
Jurišić (program coordinator) and Koraljka Dilić (public relations representative).
The fi rst pre-election activities of the NGO community related to the electoral law
itself. In October 1999, GLAS 99 publicly presented its action program and demanded
the right to participate in the parliamentary discussion of the election law, acting in
concert with HHO and the Movement for Democracy and Social Justice in calling for
amendments to the government’s draft. At the time the draft was put forward, GLAS
99 ran a campaign inviting voters to call top politicians and present their opinions
about the elections and the election law. GLAS 99 also distributed brochures on
“how the new election law would cheat voters”. The campaign helped to improve the
image of the NGO sector among the population. A November 1999 poll showed that
26 See Novi list, October 17, 1998.
27 Croatia Watch, no. 6, July 30, 1999.
28 Večernji list, November 17, 1999.
29 Dunja Ujević, “Slovački izbori u Hrvatskoj”, Večernji list, November 18, 1999. See also “Američki
obavještajci sjede u IRI-ju i USAID-u koji fi nanciraju šestoricu, a odgovaraju Montgomeryju!”,
Vjesnik, December 1, 1999.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

25 percent of respondents said they were “very interested” in the NGOs’ thoughts
about the elections and 35 percent said they were “somewhat interested”. 30 Other
GLAS 99 pre-election activities included educating citizens about voter rights,
monitoring the campaigns of political parties, and, most importantly, motivating
citizens to vote.
GLAS 99 offi cially launched its get-out-the-vote campaign in September 1999. The
campaign was run through posters and billboards, radio jingles, TV spots, as well
as brochures, fl yers and rock concerts for young people. Some of the GLAS 99
materials focused solely on voter education, informing citizens who has the right to
vote and why elections are important. It is noteworthy that GLAS 99 began its pre-
election campaign well before that of the political opposition. Even after the offi cial
campaign period for parties began, its ads were often more visible and persuasive
than those of the opposition parties. The main requirement of all organizations
involved in GLAS 99 was that they should be nonpartisan. The rest was up to them.
Still, being nonpartisan did not mean being apolitical, and some of the groups’ ads
and materials strongly criticized the government.
The main slogan of the overall GLAS 99 campaign was Zaokruži i dobivaš (“Circle
and Win”), and the “o” in zaokruži was drawn to symbolize the circling of a party on
an election ballot. This slogan was intended to play on the prize competitions that
had been launched by a number of newspapers. The group’s main billboard referred
to the elections as “the most popular prize competition”, which was “coming soon to
Croatia”. The billboard added that there would be “more than 3,000,000 winners”,
corresponding to the number of voters in Croatia. One magazine advertisement
using the “Circle and Win” slogan called on Croatians to vote and told them that
the elections were “the essential prize competition”. One of GLAS 99’s most eye-
catching magazine and newspaper ads showed a scene inside Zagreb airport,
featuring the signs for international arrivals and departures, together with the slogan
“I want to live in a normal country”. In its fi nal call to voters, GLAS 99 published a
full-page advertisement reading: “Let’s get out to the elections. Our fate and that
of our children and our homeland is again in our hands. Let’s vote seriously and
Among the main TV spots of GLAS 99 was a fast moving, MTV-style presentation,
showing well-known musicians and singers. The song “Novo vrijeme” (A new age),
was featured. According to one observer, the song demonstrates a rare combination
of utopian and ironic nostalgia.
31 Although there was no direct reference to GLAS 99,
the ad showed people making a circle on the screen, thus showing the group’s main
symbol. Following attacks on GLAS 99 by HDZ representatives, state-controlled
Croatian TV prohibited the airing of two GLAS 99 ads, including the “Novo vrijeme”
30 International Republican Institute, Istraživanje javnog mnijenja, November 1999, p. 14.
31 Paul Stubbs, “New Times? Towards a Political Economy of ‘Civil Society’ in Contemporary
Croatia”, Narodna Umjetnost, vol. 38, no. 1, 2001, pp. 89-103.

clip, claiming that they gave “indirect political messages”. At the request of Croatian
TV, the central electoral commission reviewed the advertisements and announced in
mid – D e c emb er that GL A S 99 had no rig ht to any pre – ele c tion c amp aig ning . Al thoug h
the constitutional court ruled later that month that the ads could be aired,
32 the
decision was made just a few days before the elections, ensuring that Croatian TV
won its bid to stop GLAS 99 from airing its message.
GLAS 99 was made up of four separate groups: one focusing on youth, another on
women, a third on environmental organizations and a fourth on pensioners. The
youth campaign was led by the Union of Nongovernmental Organizations (UNO 99),
marking the fi rst time that such a network was established in Croatia. The campaign
for women was run by the Women’s Ad Hoc Coalition, which grouped together 27
women’s organizations that had a history of cooperation, as they had already run
campaigns prior to the 1995 and 1997 elections. The campaign aimed at retired
persons was run by the Union of Pensioners, while Zelena akcija oversaw the
environmental campaign. In addition to the four targeted campaigns, there was
also a coordination committee with representatives of four regions (Osijek, Rijeka,
Zagreb and Split).
The campaigns by environmental NGOs and pensioners were less visible, and hence
the following considerations will focus largely on the youth and women campaigns.
The youth campaign was considered particularly important, as attracting fi rst-time
voters would be key to producing a stronger victory for the political opposition. While
HDZ had signifi cant backing from youth in the elections that initially brought it to
33 it had largely lost the support of young voters, despite the party’s control
over the education system. An opinion poll conducted shortly before the 2000
elections showed that just 12 percent of fi rst-time voters supported HDZ, compared
with 29 percent of pensioners.
34 One development that angered young voters in
the months prior to the elections was police intrusions into cafés and nightclubs. In
that regard, one journalist accused the police of attacking “the last oasis of urban
The youth campaign’s main slogan was “Izađi i bori se” (Get out and fi ght), with a “z”
added between “i” and “bori” to form the word “elections” (izbori). One of the youth
campaign’s main ads featured a turtle with its head and legs in its shell at the top of
the page and with the same turtle at the bottom of the page, apparently walking with
a purpose. Another of the campaign’s ads showed three young people in black and
white (but with brightly colored hair) standing facing a wall, with “Raid or Democracy”
as the main slogan. A playful youth campaign pamphlet showed on its cover a man
breaking a stack of concrete slabs with his head, together with the slogan “Think
32 Foreign Press Bureau, Daily Bulletin, Zagreb, December 22 and 29, 1999.
33 See Dejan Jović, Kakvu Hrvatsku žele, Danas, April 3, 1990, p. 7.
34 Globus, November 12 and 19, 1998.
35 Ivan Vidić, Urbana kultura na udaru represije, Globus, November 12, 1999, pp. 82-84.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

with your head!”. Inside the brochure was a series in which readers were asked
to spot the differences between two photographs. One page featured a photo of
three sexily dressed blonde women, juxtaposed with another of middle-aged female
demonstrators in central Zagreb holding signs with slogans such as “Why did you lie
to us?”. Another showed pictures of a rock musician versus Croatian folk dancers,
alluding to HDZ’s preference for traditional forms of culture. Through various texts,
the pamphlet tried to appeal to young voters by dealing with issues that concerned
them and using familiar language. A second pamphlet encouraged voters to focus
on the future of Croatia, with the words “Happy New 2000!” on the cover. Inside, it
included quotations from a number of politicians and journalists connected with
HDZ, demonstrating their unfavorable views on elections, opposition, democracy and
youth. One picture showed the evolution of man, with the most recent stage being
referred to as “Homo Croaticus”. That stage was said to have begun around the year
1995 (the year of Croatia’s last parliamentary elections), in which the people “chose
between a better life and false promises”, but selected the latter. A third pamphlet
designed for the youth campaign explained to voters the meaning of democracy. The
Student Information Center also joined in the youth campaign, producing fl yers that
encouraged students to “take things into your hands” and vote.
Referring to the female part of the Croatian electorate, the women’s campaign
was marked by the slogan “51 %”. The Woman’s Coalition election platform listed
the following demands: employment with regular pay; shared responsibility for the
home and participation in decision making; an end to violence against women;
legal, safe and free abortion and contraception; and education for tolerance and
human rights in schools. One ad showed the face of a smiling and pensive woman,
with “partner and not subject” as the main slogan. One poster featured a woman’s
face with the slogan “Let’s change positions and vote for partners”, while another
consisted of small pictures of various female NGO activists, together with the slogan
“Women! Let’s show our strength!”. The Coalition also produced a pre-election quiz
for women, getting them focused on key issues. On the occasion of the International
Day against Violence against Women, November 25, 1999, the Coalition distributed
materials to citizens relating to the theme of elections. Shortly before the vote, the
women’s human rights group B.a.B.e. published its analysis of the treatment of
women and women’s issues in the media and it distributed posters showing quotes
about women. One quotation from a Japanese woman read: “If it is true that men are
better than women because they are stronger, why aren’t sumo wrestlers sitting in
the government?”. In addition to B.a.B.e., the Women’s Information Center and the
Split-based women’s organization Stop Nade created their own materials for women
on elections. While the former produced a booklet on women and elections, the latter
prepared a brochure on elections and democracy and another on women’s issues
that included the slogan “A better world for women is better for all humankind”.

According to Gazivoda, the main problems faced by the GLAS 99 campaign included
both a lack of coordination among participants and a lack of coordination among
36 The two biggest contributors to the group’s fi nance were USAID’s OTI and
the OSI, and the two organizations were often on different wavelengths about what
GL AS was expected to do. While U.S. groups such as NDI, the International Republic
Institute (IRI) and the Information Research and Exchange Board (IREX) provided
training and expertise, most of the key private foundations that helped fund the
campaign were based in the United States (the National Endowment for Democracy,
Freedom House and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation). From Western Europe,
the European Commission provided some funding, as did organizations such as the
British Know-How Fund and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. Meanwhile,
the Swedish group Kvinna Till Kvinna supported women’s NGOs. Various western
embassies also contributed fi nancial support, particularly the U.S. and British
Embassies. However, that assistance was largely uncoordinated.
In certain respects, HDZ’s arguments about an international conspiracy were not
entirely unfounded, as some western funders did not hide their aim of altering the
country’s political situation through assistance to civic activity. USAID was careful
to avoid being too forthright about its goals in Slovakia. By the time of the Croatian
elections, however, OTI representatives had decided to take on a more active role
in the pre-election campaign, going as far as instructing local activists on what
to include in their literature.
38 OTI contributed US$ 3.7 million to Croatia in 1999
alone, most of which was focused on pre-election activities, and even provided a
professional media team to help work out the details of the campaign. Moreover,
USAID provided a further US$ 1.3 million that year through its Democracy Network
program, while the U.S. Embassy’s Democracy Commission distributed some US$
200,000 in small grants.
It is noteworthy that cooperation and contact with the political opposition was
limited, despite the fact that the NGOs were helping their election bid. As the
elections approached, the opposition parties gradually became more interested in
meeting NGOs. However, when it came to making on important political decisions,
they did not involve NGOs.
40 Representatives of all political parties were invited to
discuss the role of NGOs in the elections during an NGO gathering sponsored by
CERANEO a month before the elections. However, no one from HDZ or from three of
the six main opposition parties attended.
36 Speech by Gazivoda at 3 rd Annual NGO Forum sponsored by CERANEO, December 3, 1999 in
37 Personal interview with Gazivoda, December 10, 1999.
38 Personal interviews with Croatian NGO activists, December 1999.
39 Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Report, Financial Year 1999, March 2000,
p. 55.
40 Personal interview with Gazivoda, December 10, 1999.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

Lessons and Prospects
The GLAS 99 campaign launched by NGOs in Croatia had a number of positive
results. By organizing a get-out-the vote campaign, NGOs helped to ensure that the
majority of Croatian voters participated in the electoral process, as demonstrated
by the 75 percent turnout. Moreover, despite HDZ’s continued efforts to warn
the population about the danger of an opposition victory, voters overwhelmingly
supported the opposition parties, giving the Coalition of Two and the Coalition of
Four more than three-fi fths of the parliamentary seats and, thereby, setting the
stage for a more democratically oriented political administration in Croatia under
the leadership of Prime Minister Ivica Račan. In the presidential elections that were
held one month later, the NGO community organized the GLAS 2000 campaign,
helping to elect Stipe Mesić, who had quit HDZ in 1994 and was one of the few
vocal critics of Tuđman’s nationalist policies in the political opposition. A secondary,
but nonetheless positive, result of the GLAS 99 campaign was that it assisted in
creating an atmosphere of civic activism that until then had been largely absent.
Such successes should not be ignored, especially given the skepticism of many
Croatian NGO activists that the situation in Slovakia could not be repeated, given the
very different circumstances in Croatia. Nevertheless, the longer-term effects of the
GLAS 99 campaign are less obvious and its impact on strengthening Croatian civil
society appears to have been limited. One of the key problems was the NGO sector’s
public image. Even after the change of government, civic groups were not viewed
favorably by many Croatians, partly due to the HDZ’s rhetoric about international
infl uence on the NGO community.
A further lesson learned relates to domestic politicians. While NGOs and trade unions
helped Račan in January 2000, the ruling parties quickly forgot how and with whose
assistance they were elected. During Račan’s term, few efforts were made to make
use of the NGO sector’s expertise. According to one analysis, no concrete changes
took place during the new government’s fi rst year in offi ce, despite rhetorical backing
for NGOs. The only positive shift related to the public image of NGOs, which were
no longer widely perceived as “anti-Croatian”.
41 The situation began to improve in
2001 to 2002, with the approval of new legislation on NGOs and the establishment
of formal cooperation between NGOs and the government. Nevertheless, research
shows that few ministries saw NGOs as reliable partners and few NGOs had formed
real par tnerships with government institutions, par tly due to the weakness of public
42 The European Commission’s fi rst annual Stabilization and Association
Report on Croatia, published in April 2002, criticized the absence of NGOs from
41 USAID, The 2000 NGO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia (USAID,
Washington, DC, 2001), p. 60.
42 Igor Vidačak, “The Non-Governmental Sector and the Government: A Dialogue for Europe”,
in: Katarina Ott (ed.), Croatian Accession to the European Union: Economic and Legal Challenges
(Institute of Public Finance and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Zagreb, 2003), pp. 260-79.

policymaking and the legislative process and recommended increased cooperation.
Even so, by 2004, Croatian NGOs were achieving only limited success in advocacy
activities, as the new government of Ivo Sanader backtracked with regard to
Several problems related to the strategies of donors. For example, the infl ow of
large amounts of international funding for the pre-election campaign created an
artifi cial unity that turned out to be short lived, as joint activities fi zzled out shortly
after the GLAS 2000 campaign for the presidential elections. In the country’s next
parliamentary elections, held in November 2003, the NGO sector did not organize
a get-out-the-vote campaign and HDZ returned to power, although in a new, more
internationally acceptable form under the leadership of Prime Minister Sanader.
One USAID offi cial said that the donor community only took its cue from Croatia and
that international organizations did not provide assistance for another get-out-the-
vote campaign because, unlike in the Slovak case in 2002, the country’s NGOs did
not ask for help.
Moreover, the fact that the international funding for civic campaigns was only short-
term in nature and did not continue much beyond elections created enormous
cynicism on the part of NGOs. Croatia had a position in the spotlight for about
10 months before the changes in Serbia took place, causing the international
community to promptly shift its attention. OTI closed its Croatia program in March
2000, leaving support for civil society to other donors, such as the Charles Stewart
Mott Foundation, the British Know-How Fund and the USAID Mission. At the same
time, the total amount of funds coming from U.S. donors for Croatia’s NGO sector
shrank considerably, with USAID’s Democracy Network providing just US$ 750,000
in 2000 and the U.S. Embassy’s Democracy Commission again giving approximately
US$ 200,000 worth of small grants.
Nevertheless, USAID does seem to have evaluated its role as one of the main
donors supporting Croatian civil society. The organization is now concerned about
its role in helping to create a third sector that is self-sustaining. In the aftermath of
the “Homeland War,” there was a strong focus among foreign donors on promoting
human rights and advocacy, and their fi nancing strategies refl ected that. Some,
however, have argued that this was an unnatural development that has distorted
the third sector.
46 In the second phase of USAID’s Democracy Network program for
Croatia, launched in late 2001, the organization deliberately shifted its approach,
focusing mainly on non-controversial social service NGOs, partly with the intention
43 USAID, The 2004 NGO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia (USAID,
Washington, DC, 2005), p. 103.
44 Personal interview with USAID offi cial, Washington, DC, November 2004.
45 Support for East European Democracy (SEED) Report, Financial Year 2000, March 2001, p.
62, op cit.
46 Personal interview with former Academy for Educational Development (AED) country director
for Croatia, Michael Kott, Washington, DC, November 19, 2004.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

of helping to improve the sector’s image and sustainability. While previously, most
funding went to NGOs that were concentrated in Zagreb and the three regional
centers, donor efforts have helped spur the opening of new organizations in smaller
municipalities. By 2003, the total number of Croatian NGOs had increased to
approximately 23,800.
The problems that have plagued the Croatian NGO community during the recent
p a s t w ill b e di f fi c ul t to ove r c o m e. U S A I D p u t C ro a t i a’s 20 0 4 N G O s u s t ain ab ili t y r a t ing
at 3.5 points, demonstrating that the country’s sector is still in the mid-transition
phase. That is a considerable improvement over the country’s 1999 rating of 5.0,
mainly due to a sharp drop in the scores for legal environment and fi nancial viability
(both of which were previously at 6.0 points). Still, much work needs to be done
to bring the overall score down to the levels seen in Croatia’s regional peers that
joined the European Union in 2004, with all countries except for Slovenia having
sustainability scores of 2.1 to 2.7 points.
The latest evaluation by USAID considers fi nancial viability to be the main problem
for NGOs in Croatia, particularly given the reduction in foreign assistance. That is
especially true since USAID funding for Croatia was phased out in 2006. Prospects
for more domestic funding have improved somewhat, thanks to the Račan
government’s establishment in late 2003 of the National Foundation for Civil Society
Development, which is supported by lottery revenues and state funds with the aim
of making the NGO sector more sustainable, while also promoting networking and
volunteerism. Still, the Foundation was tainted by controversy in January 2005,
when it was revealed that funds were allocated to those NGOs whose organizational
coordinators were represented on its management board.
Public perceptions of the NGO community remain one of the key challenges for
C r o a t i a’s t h i r d s e c t o r, a s t h e y c o n t i n u e t o v a r y f r o m i n d i f f e r e n c e t o g e n e r a l l y n e g a t i v e
attitudes. One public opinion poll commissioned in 2002 by the Women’s Human
Rights Group B.a.B.e. showed that more than half of the population was not aware of
public activities by NGOs, while a relative majority found their work unsuccessful.
Croatia’s NGO sector in the 21
st century has continued to face the same hardships
and opportunities as other elements of society, presenting many contradictions.
Despite healthy GDP growth, scarce domestic fi nancial resources have contributed
to rising foreign debt. Despite rhetoric of multinational tolerance and greater
openness toward the states of the former Yugoslavia, individual instances of ethnic
violence have continued in Croatia. Despite elaborate legislative and institutional
47 USAID, The 2003 NGO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia (USAID,
Washington, DC, June 2004), p. 55.
48 For more information on that scandal, see under “Stalne rubrike:
Nevladine udruge”.
49 “Percepcija NVO u Hrvatskoj”, available at

protection for a woman’s right to live free of violence, cases of domestic violence
have increased and have become more serious recently.
In such a social and political context, Croatian civil society faces at least two
important dilemmas of “political normalization”. First, it remains unclear whether
NGOs can become partners to the ruling elite without losing their critical stance as
independent observers. Second, it is unclear how civic organizations can widen the
scope of their activism to issues that were not explored during the 1990s (such as
the right to asylum, gay and lesbian rights and animal rights) without being constantly
reminded that Croatian civil society has more important issues to deal with.
Political changes after the 2000 elections brought about reforms that included
better legal protection for social and ethnic groups whose human rights were
violated in the previous era, while also transforming the country’s political rhetoric
along the lines of European Union requirements. However, formal political changes
can only achieve limited effects if they are not followed by a transformation of civic
culture. While the GLAS 99 campaign was successful in abolishing the culture of
fear that had characterized the 1990s, more work needs to be done. A shift from the
political rhetoric of tolerance toward a civic culture of tolerance requires that civil
society organizations are equipped with professionalism, perseverance and civic
courage, in addition to suffi cient fi nancial means, as they face new political and
social tensions and challenges.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

January 1, 1999
In his New Year interview with Croatian TV, President Franjo Tuđman states that as
far as social policy is concerned it would be hard to fi nd a state as socially conscious
as Croatia. At the same time, Freedom House classifi es Croatia as “partly free” in
terms of media freedom, with a lower level of democracy than in 1997.
January 26, 1999
Tuđman speaks with opposition leaders Dražen Budiša (Croatian Social Liberal
Party) and Ivica Račan (Social Democratic Party) about the reconstruction of the
government and offers Budiša participation in the cabinet.
February 12, 1999
NGO representatives hold a preliminary meeting in which they decide to launch a
joint campaign prior to the elections scheduled for the beginning of the following
March 7, 1999
Public intellectuals and NGO activists Gojko Bežovan, Ivan Zvonimir Čičak, Damir
Grubiša, Darko Jurišić and Čedo Prodanović state that organizations and individuals
engaged in developing democracy and civil society will participate in the electoral
campaign. On the next day, activists from women’s groups announce they are
forming a coalition for monitoring and infl uencing the elections.
March 19, 1999
A new electoral law is drafted, dividing Croatia into 10 electoral units, with a
proportional electoral system. That is considered benefi cial for large parties and for
regional parties, but not advantageous for smaller parties and coalitions. The draft
remains open to amendments.
May 10, 1999
Violence breaks out in Zagreb’s Square of Croatian Heroes during the annual civic
protest aimed at returning the square to its old name, the Square of the Victims of
Fascism. Right-wing Ustaše sympathizers throw teargas at anti-fascist protesters.
The police do not react, choosing to view the event as a confl ict between “anti-
fascists” and “anti-communists”.
July 2, 1999
President Tuđman’s legal advisor, Mirko Ramušćak, publicly calls on Croatian citizens
to boycott newspapers “that serve [George] Soros and his sick idea to subjugate
nations and states to his evil empire”.
July 8, 1999
GONG starts preparing for the election monitoring campaign.

August 6, 1999
Opposition leaders Ivica Račan and Dražen Budiša announce the formation of a
coalition in which the Social Democratic Party (SDP) will be represented by two
thirds of the candidates and the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) by one third.
August 1999
The United Nations Security Council threatens Croatia with economic sanctions
for its lack of cooperation with the International War Crimes Tribunal for Former
Yugoslavia. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) criticizes
state-run Croatian TV because the airtime devoted to the ruling Croatian Democratic
Community (HDZ) is disproportionately larger than that for the opposition parties.
September 2, 1999
A coalition of NGOs known as GLAS 99 offi cially starts a get-out-the-vote campaign.
October 7, 1999
Women’s rights activists publicly campaign for greater participation of women in
politics as part of GLAS 99.
October 21, 1999
G L A S 9 9 p u b l i c l y p r e s e n t s i t s p r o g r a m o f a c t i o n a n d d e m a n d s t h e r i g h t t o p a r t i c i p a t e
in parliamentary discussions on the electoral law.
October 26, 1999
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights declares its support for
GLAS 99.
November 11, 1999
President Tuđman falls fatally ill.
November 24, 1999
The OSCE starts monitoring the pre-election campaign in Croatia and preparing its
international election observation mission.
December 12, 1999
The defense minister announces that the army will respect the electoral results.
President Tuđman dies.
December 22, 1999
The state electoral commission rules that GLAS 99 has “no right to any pre-election
campaigning”. The decision is made in response to GLAS 99’s television ads.
December 29, 1999
Days before the elections, the constitutional court rules that GLAS 99 advertising
can be aired.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

January 3, 2000
Parliamentary elections bring an overwhelming victory to two opposition coalitions,
which win more than 60 percent of the seats in parliament. Voter turnout reaches
75 percent.
51%. Elections 99 – Women’s ad hoc coalition. Pre-election quiz (for women only).

Take the matter into your own
hands! 8:00-12:00 – lectures.
12:00-13:00 – canteen. 13:00-
17:00 – library. 17:00 – vote
Come out! GLAS 99 – Vote / Have
your say!
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić

B.a.B.e volunteers campaigning in
downtown Zagreb. Think with your head! Get out!
Vote and win!

Spot the difference!
Spot the difference!
The protest poster reads: “Why did
you lie to us?”.
Sharon Fisher and Biljana Bijelić


IZLAZ 2000:
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta
IZLAZ 2000 (Exit 2000) is the umbrella name given to the campaign for free and
fair presidential elections in 2000 of a group of Serbian NGOs. A common campaign
image and slogan invited citizens to participate in the elections and to take the
opportunity to exit from the political and social crisis, economic deprivation and
international isolation, in which Serbia increasingly found itself as a result of the
13-year long neo-authoritarian rule of Slobodan Milošević.
T h e m a i n p u r p o s e s o f t h e c a m p a i g n w e r e t o e n c o u r a g e h i g h v o t e r t u r n o u t , t o m o n i t o r
the election process and to ensure that the ballot was at all stages free, fair and
refl ected the will of the citizens. The joint approach of more than 150 NGOs, involving
an estimated 25-30,000 volunteers, was intended to increase the effectiveness and
infl uence of civil society. The campaign was part of a broad, coordinated, strategy on
the part of all democratic forces in Serbia including free media, opposition political
parties, independent unions and nongovernmental organizations. All these groups
were united by their wish for democratic change, their otherwise differing interests
The contribution of civil society to pro-democracy activities prior to the 2000 federal
and presidential elections in Serbia has been noted as exemplary, both domestically
and internationally. Civic campaigns and activities were carried out in an extremely
tense political and social atmosphere, as the Milošević regime did not hesitate to
use repression and arrests, to disrupt activities or confi scate materials or to direct
threats at persons and organizations involved. Among ordinary citizens, fear of
reprisals was widespread.
Nevertheless, on election day (September 24, 2000) over 71 percent of voters
turned out, with over 50 percent casting their ballot in favor of Vojislav Koštunica,
the democratic challenger to Slobodan Milošević, whose long and non-democratic
reign was ended through an impressive demonstration of the will of Serbian citizens
for democratic change. The parliamentary elections on December 23, 2000, in
which the Democratic Opposition of Serbia won a landslide victory, confi rmed this
sea change in Serbian politics. Civil society made a considerable contribution to the
re-establishment of democracy in Serbia and it can be rightfully proud of the role it
played then and since.
1 “Izlaz” (Serbian for “exit”) has a double meaning: to exit a place or a problem situation and to
show up somewhere (at elections, going out socially in the evening, appearing in public, etc.).

Today, in hindsight, it is diffi cult to say which of the many civic efforts around the
September 2000 elections made the most important contribution, whether the
large and mediatized projects at the national level such as those of the Center for
Free Elections and Democracy (henceforth, CeSID), the youth movement OTPOR
G17+, Civic Initiatives or the European Movement in Serbia, or the smaller ones that
involved many marginalized groups without signifi cant resources or media coverage.
More importantly, all these activities demonstrated the strength and infl uence of the
nongovernmental sector, its creativity and ability to mobilize citizens and its power
to resist even the most non-democratic regime. This experience continues to be an
inspiration to all those in Serbia, and elsewhere, that are committed to democracy
and human rights and to political, social and economic reform.
Representative of all of these civic efforts, this case study presents the civic
campaign IZLAZ 2000, provides an overview of the general context in which this
campaign was developed and implemented, describes its main protagonists and
activities and assesses its main results.
Milošević’s Serbia:
Society and Politics before the 2000 Elections
The pre-election activities that made up the IZLAZ 2000 campaign were an integral
part of the wider struggle by democratic forces in Serbia for political change in favor
of democracy. These included opposition political parties, independent trade unions,
universities, youth organizations, numerous professional associations, as well as
the independent media. The context in which these forces developed their activities
was the regime of Slobodan Milošević under which all pro-democracy actors faced
signifi cant challenges to their existence and survival. However, that civic campaigns
eventually succeeded in contributing to bringing Milošević’s rule to an end, can be
attributed to the nature and structure of civil society in the country, at the time and
Political context
In 2000, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was a federal state consisting of
Serbia and Montenegro, the two states remaining in the federation a decade after
the progressive dismemberment and dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia. After the international recognition of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia
& Herzegovina and Macedonia, a series of wars broke out (1991). The Dayton
Agreement, signed in December 1995, brought with it three years of peace to the
territory of the former Yugoslavia. The outbreak of the Kosovo confl ict led to NATO air
strikes against Yugoslavia in March 1999.
2 Detailed information about OTPOR is available with the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action
and Strategies in Belgrade, Serbia; see /

In the two years prior to the federal elections in 2000, the situation for the
democratically oriented nongovernmental sector in Serbia was characterized by
increased government pressure and, therefore, highly precarious. Repression
began with the elimination of university independence and a crackdown on the
independent media, on both the national and local levels. The subsequent NATO
intervention and the bombing of Belgrade in response to the regime’s actions in
Kosovo only increased the repressiveness of the Milošević regime. State controlled
media issued nationalistic and xenophobic propaganda and systematically bashed
the democratic opposition and all the other democratically-minded activists.
The ultimate goal of this type of propaganda was to discredit democratic forces
in the eyes of the public by labeling them as collaborators and traitors, thereby,
disqualifying them from political and public life. Such propaganda also spread fear
among citizens that the regime would retaliate against anyone who was associated
with democratically-minded groups.
The regime intensifi ed its repressive actions further at the beginning of 2000, when
it became obvious that pro-democracy groups had made signifi cant progress in
developing their cooperation and in creating a strategy for joint action. The regime
launched a concerted attack on the remnants of the free and independent media,
with numerous local media being banned or taken over by regime sympathizers. A
systematic crackdown on the OTPOR youth resistance movement took place, during
which almost 2,000 activists were arrested. Many were beaten-up by police.
During spring 2000, nongovernmental organizations came under systematic
attack, being labeled terrorists, NATO mercenaries and traitors. Activities were
misrepresented in the media. Regular legal-fi nancial inspections of civic associations
were used by the authorities as a pretense to increase scrutiny of their activities.
Equipment and public relations materials were confi scated and activists and
employees of nongovernmental organizations were summoned for questioning by
the police, all in an attempt to create a psychology of fear and to impede activities.
Without a doubt, this polarization of public life and the psychological war unleashed
by the regime on pro-democracy forces contributed to shaping the resolve of the
opposition and nongovernmental sector.
At the same time, the NATO bombing of Belgrade signifi cantly increased the level
of social and political consciousness of pro-democracy activists and groups. They
quickly realized that effecting lasting change in Serbia could only be achieved if they
joined forces and built cross-sectoral cooperation to oust the ruling Socialist Party
of Serbia (SPS), which for more than a decade had been an increasingly destructive
force in Serbia’s political and social development.
As early as September 1999, a process to unite the parties of the democratic
opposition was initiated in the form of a round table, resulting in the creation of
the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) and, subsequently, in its victory in the
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta

federal elections in 2000. 18 parties constituted DOS, including the Democratic
Party of Zoran Đinđić, the Democratic Party of Serbia of Vojislav Koštunica, the
Civic Alliance of Serbia of Goran Svilanović, the Demo-Christian Party of Serbia of
Vladan Batić, New Serbia under Velimir Velja Ilić, the League of Vojvodina’s Social
Democrats of Nenad Čanak, the Social Democratic Union of Žarko Korać, the
Alliance of Hungarians from Vojvodina of Jožef Kasa, the Reformist Democratic Party
of Vojvodina of Miodrag Mile Isakov, the Vojvodina Coalition of Dragan Veselinov,
the Social Democracy of Vuk Obradović, the Movement for Democratic Serbia of
Momčilo Perišić, the Sandžak Democratic Party of Rasim Ljajić, the League for
Šumadija of Branislav Kovačević and the Association of Independent Unions of
Serbia of Dragan Milovanović. NGO partners involved in the dialogue included the
Center for Democracy, CeSID, the Yugoslav Committee of Lawyers for Human Rights,
Civic Initiatives, the Center for the Development of the Non-Profi t Sector, the youth
movement OTPOR and others. The unity demonstrated by the democratic opposition
also led to a shift in public opinion, as ordinary citizens gained trust and confi dence
in the democratic opposition and warmed to the idea that political change could be
achieved through elections.
During the months preceding the September 2000 elections, it became increasingly
obvious that the ballot had come to be understood as a referendum on the regime
and on political change in the country. The regime resorted to populist demagogy
in communicating with citizens. The government made promises to distribute hard
currency savings, which were blocked in individual bank accounts and off limits to
account holders, offered to issue bonds and announced measures against corruption
in the social and health care systems. The regime proclaimed that the elections
would be a referendum on the future of Kosovo and claimed that the reconstruction
and development activities that had been conducted by the government to date
proved that Serbia did not need international aid. The opposition, for its part, spoke
about change, about re-establishing the country’s relations with the international
community, returning to the rule of law, reforming the legal and educational systems
and the media and about re-instating democracy.
Social context
The years of government by Milošević and his SPS had brought about considerable
discontent among ordinary citizens. SPS presided over the discrediting of the legal
system, the fl aunting of the rule of law, a continuous and unstoppable deterioration in
the standard of living, a breakdown of social values, the ruin of the social welfare and
health care systems, rampant corruption in all state institutions and the continuous
rise of personal, legal and fi nancial insecurity among ordinary people. As early as
3 Exemplary of the democratic opposition’s views were the “White Book”, published by the G17+
think tank in 2000, covering the consequences of the previous ten years of Milošević’s regime
for Serbia, and the European Movement in Serbia’s publication entitled “Preparing Serbia for
European Integration”.

September 1999, analysts of public opinion reported that 80 percent of citizens
were in favor of change and that the principal reason for their dissatisfaction was
economic in nature. An indication of this is that at the time, 35 percent of citizens
were estimated as poor and another 35 percent lived on the poverty line. There
were 1.25 million pensioners in Serbia and approximately 50 percent of working age
citizens were unemployed or only formally employed.
On the other hand, public opinion analyses conducted until summer 2000 also
indicated that the citizens were largely apathetic and that many doubted that
peaceful change through elections was possible. By the end of July 2000, when
the date of the elections was made public, opinion research indicated that 42.2
percent of citizens believed in the possibility of change through elections.
5 At the
same time, longer-term survey results and previous elections indicated that a very
low turnout was a distinct possibility. The largest group abstaining from voting was
to be found in the 55 plus age group, consisting mainly of women, without university
education, living in suburban or in rural areas.
6 Furthermore, analyses indicated that
large numbers of young people would also stay away from the ballot boxes, despite
the fact that they had reached the age of majority and had the opportunity to vote
for the fi rst time. According to the analysts, one out of six young voters was in favor
of the incumbent political parties, while among the remaining fi ve, three were likely
not to vote in the forthcoming elections.
General civic dissatisfaction, on the one hand, and indications in public opinion that
many voters would abstain from casting their ballot, on the other, all implied that
in order for democratic forces to win the elections, it was necessary to motivate
as many voters as possible to take part in the elections, which would serve as a
channel for that civil dissatisfaction to be redefi ned as votes against the regime and
in favor of democratic change.
The Situation in the Nongovernmental Sector
It is estimated that in 2000, there were 1,500 new and independent NGOs, whose
work focused on the problems resulting from the social crisis in the country and on
promoting social activism and change, on putting new social issues on the agenda
and on mobilizing new target groups. Until 1995, civil society developed fast, with
the number of organizations promoting anti-war, humanitarian, feminist and human
4 Žarko Paunović et al (eds.), Exit 2000 – Nongovernmental Organizations for Democratic and
Fair Elections (Center for Democracy Foundation, Center for Development of the Non-Profi t Sector,
Civil Initiatives, Belgrade, 2001).
5 Results of the CPS-CPA Center for Policy Studies, a think tank.
6 Analysis by G17+, a think tank.
7 Žarko Paunović et al (eds.), Exit 2000 – Nongovernmental Organizations for Democratic and
Fair Elections (Center for Democracy Foundation, Center for Development of the Non-Profi t Sector,
Civil Initiatives, Belgrade, 2001), p. 7, op cit.
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta

rights causes consistently growing. Alternative educational, research and cultural
organizations and associations also grew in popularity. Promotion of the principle
of the rule of law was the common denominator among all independent NGOs.
The NGO sector contributed to the development of alternative value systems, the
articulation of the pluralism of interests among different social groups in the country
and to the development of critical public opinion.
After the civic protests that took place in winter 1996 to 1997 as a result of Milošević’s
refusal to accept the results of the 1996 local elections, the NGO sector proved
to be an important promotor of democratic values and began to grow. Coalition
building between the civic and governmental sectors, in the form of support to the
newly elected local authorities, strengthened it further. After the war in Kosovo
and the NATO intervention in March to June 1999, new types of organizations and
networks began to appear all over the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including
advocacy groups, civic parliaments, civic resistance movements, trade unions and
new professional associations of journalists, university professors and judges. The
following organizations are exemplary of the development of Serbian civil society in
the late 1990s and evolved into important drivers of the civic activities around the
elections in 2000.
The Center for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) was established in Belgrade
in 1997 with the aim of improving public understanding of elections and democratic
processes. Through training activities, pre-election campaigning and monitoring,
CeSID played a key role in strengthening democratic processes. It developed
a countrywide network consisting of 21,000 volunteer election monitors, 165
municipal teams, 16 local and 5 regional offi ces and a pool of experts and
researchers. Further, a number of prominent public personalities were involved in
its advisory board.
Civic Initiatives was founded in May 1996 to strengthen citizen participation,
education and training for democracy, as well as the development of NGO networking
and common lobbying activities. Civic Initiatives focused its activities on NGOs
outside the capital Belgrade, reaching smaller cities and rural locations throughout
Serbia (and Montenegro) and connecting local groups to the capital. This was crucial
during the IZLAZ 2000 campaign.
The European Movement in Serbia was founded with the mission of raising
awareness of and promoting European integration for Serbia, regional cooperation
and local development. The movement developed a strong network structure in 20
towns in Serbia. Through its Forum for International Relations it put foreign policy
issues on the public agenda.
OTPOR (Resistance) emerged as a pro-democracy youth movement at Belgrade
University in October 1998. After the NATO intervention in 1999, OTPOR started
a political campaign against President Slobodan Milošević. It continued directly

addressing the president during the presidential campaign in 2000, when it launched
its campaign called “Gotov je” (He’s fi nished) and came to be widely credited for its
role in ousting Milošević. Since then, OTPOR has inspired and trained youth groups
in numerous countries, including Georgia, Ukraine and Belarus.
G17+ was established as an experts’ network in 1998. It started as a group of
17 distinguished economists and sociologists from Serbia and Montenegro, who
criticized the political economy of war of Milošević’s regime and its disastrous
outcome for the country, including sanctions and international isolation. Through
the production of numerous pamphlets, publications and the organization of public
events, this group encouraged the development of a pro-reform bloc in Serbia.
Civil society also played an important para-diplomatic role during the intense political
and economic isolation of Serbia. Some groups of important actors on the domestic
scene became involved in regional and European processes of cooperation such
as the Szeged Process “for free towns and municipalities in Serbia”, the Timişoara
Initiative for Free Media, the Graz Process including networks working in the
fi elds of alternative and non-formal education, the Royaumont Process including
nongovernmental organizations from the wider region, special forms of humanitarian
work (for example, “energy for democracy”, “asphalt for democracy” and “schools
for democracy”
8) and networking between independent institutes and research
The number of registered nongovernmental organizations continuously increased in
the years prior to the 2000 elections. In addition, the capacity and competence of
nongovernmental organizations increased with their exposure to knowledge about
methods and techniques of public organizing. During 1999 and 2000, experiences
from the civil society sector activity during pre-election campaigns in Slovakia
(OK ‘98) and in Croatia (GLAS 99) were presented at several NGO conferences,
workshops and meetings held in Belgrade and elsewhere in Serbia, in Bratislava,
Szeged and Timişoara, and were, thus, made available to civil society.
During the same year, NGOs made efforts to intensify their contacts with citizens,
especially at the local level. This new approach consisted of organizing forum
discussions, talking with members of local communities and organizing small-scale
activities at the local level to solve problems considered current and important within
those communities. The NGO leaders took part in public debates and electronic
media programs at the local level and a huge number of brochures, booklets and
promotional materials were distributed. In addition, many local events were organized
challenging offi cial politics and offering a new vision of the Yugoslav – European
future, peace in the region and cooperation with neighboring countries.
8 These concrete projects were mostly designed by G17+ and supported by a number of European
governments and the European Commission. These projects provided support to the towns and
municipalities where the opposition parties had power and helped to build a constituency for
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta

The socio-political reality clearly pointed to the need for the inclusion of the NGO
sector in the pre-election process. NGOs understood their role primarily in terms
of civic education, especially as concerns elections and the electoral process. In
addition, they recognized that they could be instrumental in motivating citizens
to come out and vote in the elections. They were clear about the goal of this
mobilization, though. Their aim was to harness the high level of civil dissatisfaction
and to transform it into votes for change. Their activities stressed the promotion of
social change within a European perspective, more broadly.
It became increasingly clear as the elections approached that citizens had to
understand that it was they who would win against Milošević and that all citizens
s h o u l d h ave t h e c h an c e t o c l e ar l y s ay w h a t k i n d o f f u tu r e t h e y w an t e d fo r t h e m s e l ve s
and for their children. Having recognized this, the civil society sector’s primary goal
became that of restoring citizen trust in the importance of their votes, of convincing
them that every vote counts and of re-establishing their faith in the ability of the
people to win democratic change.
The IZLAZ 2000 Campaign
IZLAZ 2000 was a political, but nonpartisan, campaign. Discussion about
nongovernmental activities and get-out-the-vote campaigns began when Serbian
activists learned about the success of the Civic Campaign OK ‘98 in Slovakia. At the
beginning of 2000, and having in mind the upcoming federal and local elections,
the nongovernmental sector started looking into the possibility of organizing similar
campaigns. Some organizations prepared preliminary programs of activities,
initiated agreements and cooperation with similar organizations, started cooperative
networking and carried out some preliminary activities. Eventually, a threefold
campaign goal was defi ned.
To enable citizens to better understand the electoral process
In the past, Milošević’s regime had repeatedly tampered with election processes
and results. After the regime’s refusal to recognize the results of local elections in
winter 1996 to 1997, citizens protested for three months. That was a fi rst victory
for the democratic opposition. Yet for a more decisive democratic change through
elections, public knowledge about elections was insuffi cient.
To increase the number of citizens voting in the elections
The only way to win the elections was to get citizens out to vote, as the ruling parties
benefi ted from the ability to mobilize their usual voting constituencies, who were
highly disciplined in going to the ballot boxes. It was crucial to convince undecided
and disappointed voters, a large group whose votes could (and in the end, did)
ensure electoral victory for the democratic opposition, to come out to vote.

To increase the number of citizens
actively participating in the electoral process
A decisive factor was to mobilize a large number of citizens as volunteers to get
them involved in checking electoral lists, monitoring the elections, participating in
electoral boards and ensuring a free and fair electoral process.
The IZLAZ 2000 campaign was implemented in two phases. In the fi rst phase, the
campaign was prepared, and in the second, it was launched and run. The starting
point of the preparation in conceptual terms was a conference entitled “A View into
the Future”, organized by Civic Initiatives in September 1999, at which a workshop
about the Slovak experience with OK ‘98 was held. A month later, representatives of
the opposition parties, independent media and independent trade unions met with
NGOs and decided to work together in a wide opposition bloc for the fi rst time.
In February 2000, a group of 30 NGOs started talks on the campaign strategy,
inspired by presentations of the GLAS 99 campaign by Croatian NGOs in Belgrade
and several other cities. The following month a campaign preparation board was
set up, including representatives of the Association of Independent Media, CeSID,
the Center for Policy Alternatives, the Center for the Development of the Non-Profi t
Sector, the Center for Democracy Foundation, Civic Initiatives, G17+, OTPOR, the
Partnership for Change, Timok Club Intake and the Women’s Network.
9 In June
2000, several further members joined the board, including the European Movement
in Serbia, Women’s Political Action, AZIN and the Group for the Promotion of
Women’s Political Rights. An information and support center and a secretariat for
the campaign were also established.
After July 27, 2000, when it was fi nally announced that the election would take place
in September of that year, coordination meetings of the campaign were organized on
a weekly basis, and in the immediate run-up to the elections, they even took place
twice a week. Close cooperation with local networks was established and it was
recommended to set up local coordination bodies for the campaign. Coordination
also involved the setting up of a joint fund for activities and rapid interventions.
Developing effective channels of communication on the campaign was a further
important task. In the late spring of 2000, a bulletin called “Nongovernmental
organizations and the ‘Get-out-the-Vote’ campaign” was issued in order to provide
the public with basic information about the campaign. Later, regular information
was distributed daily by the Center for the Development of the Non-Profi t Sector and
published through a special edition of IZLAZ News. Web presentations and press
releases of IZLAZ 2000 were carried by Free Serbia and ANEM.
9 Žarko Paunović et al (eds.), Exit 2000 – Nongovernmental Organizations for Democratic and
Fair Elections (Center for Democracy Foundation, Center for Development of the Non-Profi t Sector,
Civil Initiatives, Belgrade, 2001), p. 10, op cit.
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta

In August 2000, IZLAZ 2000 was launched and activities intensifi ed at the
beginning of September. By mid-September, most activities reached their peak to
ensure maximum impact of the campaign in time for the elections. More than 150
NGOs took part in the get-out-the-vote campaign by carrying out over 60 different
projects under the common logo of IZLAZ 2000. Local NGOs, which did not have
their own campaign projects, joined other NGOs and helped them recruit volunteers
and distribute pre-election materials to citizens. The IZLAZ 2000 campaign had a
countrywide reach, with hardly a single municipality among the 164 in Serbia not
seeing at least one event inviting citizens to vote. The cooperation between the
participating NGOs was exemplary, with local, regional and national campaigns
being united and coordinated.
Besides nationwide activities targeted at citizens in general, like those organized by
OTPOR, G17+ or Civic Initiatives, other projects addressed specifi c target groups.
Youth campaigns were organized by 37 NGOs, supported by the B92 radio station and
ANEM, under the common name “Vreme je” (It’s time), by the European Movement in
Serbia and the Students’ Union of Serbia. These campaigns included concerts and
performances, the distribution of leafl ets, posters, stickers, pencils, balloons and
other promotional materials, as well as radio and TV jingles.
Projects specifi cally targeting women were carried out in 50 towns across the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and in many villages. The aim was to motivate as
many women as possible to participate and use their right to vote in the elections.
The variety of activities included volunteer training sessions for women, public
debates with voters, the distribution of printed materials, media promotion activities
(videos and radio jingles), billboards, badges and stickers. These campaigns were
conducted by the Group for the Promotion of Women’s Political Rights and Women’s
Movement – Women’s Network, along with some local NGOs.
Actions to reach rural communities were carried out by the Center for Anti-War
Action, Village Step 98, the Alternative Citizens’ Parliament and others. Further
projects included one for the Roma population, carried out by the Roma Information
Center and the YUROM Center, and one for workers and retired persons, carried out
by the Partnership for Democratic Change. CeSID, along with the Yugoslav Lawyers
Committee for Human Rights and the Belgrade Center for Human Rights, organized
a campaign to ensure election monitoring.
The course of the IZLAZ 2000 campaign was also conditioned by external factors.
Financial assistance to the campaigns at all levels, from national to local, was
regularly obstructed and received with signifi cant delay. In addition, the national
and many local media were state controlled and, thus, not open to covering the

The Role of International Cooperation
Several social and political initiatives, or campaigns, have been instrumental in
recent years in bringing about democratic change through elections in Central and
Eastern Europe. Prior to Serbia in 2000, the notable cases were those of Slovakia
and Croatia. International cooperation and the exchange of good practice of pre-
and post-election civic activism were a critical element of success in Serbia.
During the preparation of the get-out-the-vote campaign, a number of meetings
and trainings with colleagues from the NGO sectors in Croatia and Slovakia were
organized both outside and inside Serbia. The “Bratislava Process” was launched at
an international conference held in Bratislava, Slovakia, in July 1999, entitled “The
Future of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in Light of Post-War Developments”,
organized by the East-West Institute and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak
Republic. Part of the Bratislava Process, a task force was created to enable dialogue
and joint action among members of different pro-democracy forces in Serbia and
organizations from the international community. Representatives of opposition
parties, NGOs, unions, student organizations and the independent media, were
brought together through this process.
The task force, as an international initiative, contributed decisively to the victory
of democratic forces in Serbia. It was an important innovation in international
relations. The form of cooperation, contents and main players, all contributed
to the initiative’s experimental and innovative nature. This unilateral initiative on
the part of a small European country (Slovakia), gave crucial support to political
change in another small European country (the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia),
with which it had neither common borders nor special historical ties, other than
through the small Slovak minority living in the Vojvodina region. The representatives
of the Slovak authorities and NGOs successfully mobilized international multilateral
organizations, international institutions and foundations, including the Council
of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the
European Parliament, the East West Institute, the Fund for an Open Society, the
Rockefeller Foundation, the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the
Stability Pact for South East Europe, among others, to support political change and
the consolidation of reform in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The main task was to consolidate and structure the unity of the various forces in favor
of change, through open dialogue between opposition parties and representatives
of local authorities, NGOs, independent media, trade unions and business, with the
support of Slovak and international partners, who facilitated the process of building
consensus and a common platform on the desired political change.
An important aspect of this international dimension of the campaign’s preparation
was the Donors’ Forum, which started its activities at the beginning of July 2000. It
was composed of the Canadian International Development Agency, the Fund for an
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta

Open Society, the Know How Fund of Great Britain, the Dutch and Swiss Embassies
in Belgrade and the German interest section in Belgrade. Subsequently the German
Marshall Fund of the United States joined this initiative and provided support for the
election-related activities of 50 NGOs. The Donors’ Forum ensured a process, by
which the submission of project proposals, their review and the decision making on
funding was accelerated and coordinated. The objectives were to provide fi nancing to
as many NGO projects as possible, to prevent duplication of fi nancing and to ensure
a well balanced territorial distribution of approved projects. The donor organizations
provided signifi cant resources, which the NGO pre-election campaigns were able to
However, that was not the only assistance the donor organizations provided,
even though funding was critical. Efforts were made to establish cooperation
between NGOs and other relevant partners within the country and internationally.
The experiences, suggestions and advice received from the Slovak and Croatian
colleagues proved useful. Representatives of donor organizations helped NGOs to
acquire the necessary know-how by organizing trainings for civic activists, providing
relevant training materials and publications. At the same time, and although
cooperation was very close, donors did not impose their approaches or ideas on
Serbian NGOs.
Outcomes and Lessons
Although the exact extent may be hard to determine, it is beyond doubt that the
described civil society engagement made a considerable contribution to democratic
change in Serbia. At the presidential elections on September 24, 2000, over 71
percent of citizens cast their vote and gave a clear victory to democratic candidate
Vojislav Koštunica (50.24 percent) over the incumbent Slobodan Milošević (37.15
10 In the elections to the federal parliament of Yugoslavia on the same
day, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia received a majority in both houses, with
11 deputies in the House of the Republics and 55 in the House of the Citizens.
This clear desire of Serbian citizens for democratic change was confi rmed in the
parliamentary elections on December 23, 2000, when the Democratic Opposition
of Serbia won an overwhelming 64.7 percent of the votes.
This democratic breakthrough was clearly the result of the joint effort of all pro-
democratic and change-oriented forces in the country. The high level of consensus,
the common platform and the coordination of the effort for change brought new
quality to the political life of the country and provided a good starting point for the
new governments of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In spite of all
the diffi culties and the increasing level of repression in the run-up to the elections,
10 Offi cial Gazette of the FRY, no.55, vol. IX, October 10, 2000, p.1.
11 Offi cial Gazette of the FRY, no. 56, vol. IX, October 13, 2000, p.1.

the key to success was the consolidated and united front presented against the
Milošević regime.
This unifi ed stance was the result of long-term development. The success of the
public protests against the refusal of the government to recognize the results of the
local elections in December 1996 and the ensuing cooperation between civil society
and the newly elected local authorities prepared the ground for the change that
took place in 2000. By then, there existed mutual understanding and confi dence
between those working at the local level, especially through the Association of
Independent Towns and Municipalities, which was established at the beginning of
1997. Independent local media in many towns in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
were a very important factor of change and helped to develop the common platform
on which the opposition could gain the confi dence of the wider public.
The IZLAZ 2000 campaign, despite a very limited time frame, was highly effective
because of the enormous social energy that had accumulated and could be tapped
into. In addition, and for the fi rst time in the ten-year history of public civic protest
in Serbia, the campaign received logistical, fi nancial and moral support from the
international community. Given the long standing isolation of the country, democratic
opposition and civil society were signifi cantly galvanized by the sense of solidarity
and moral support provided by the international community, not least because it
was also matched with signifi cant resources in support of the civic campaign.
The central momentum for change, however, came from citizens. According to an
analysis of public opinion in Serbia carried out by the Center for Policy Studies (CPA/
CPS) in October 2000, “the citizens consider their decision to fi nally get rid of the
old regime, which had catastrophic effects for the state, a crucial factor which led to
the turn of events and to electoral victory and democratic changes”.
12 Despite a lack
of knowledge regarding the activities of the civil sector expressed by the majority
of citizens, a large number of citizens believed that the NGO contribution to the
victory of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) was signifi cant (29 percent), or
of medium signifi cance (23 percent), which clearly illustrates that the campaign to
motivate citizens to take part in the elections and to be involved in monitoring the
electoral process was successful.
The contribution of the IZLAZ 2000 campaign and other civic efforts to the electoral
victory was mainly refl ected in the high turnout of citizens with higher education,
especially high school and university students and professionals. However, it should
be pointed out that blue-collar workers also indicated their belief that the civic pre-
election campaign was instrumental in the victory of democratic forces. The NGO
campaign was, of course, also evaluated positively by the followers of DOS. In sum,
12 Žarko Paunović et al (eds.), Exit 2000 – Nongovernmental Organizations for Democratic and
Fair Elections (Center for Democracy Foundation, Center for Development of the Non-Profi t Sector,
Civil Initiatives, Belgrade, 2001), p. 26, op cit.
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta

it appears that the NGO campaign had a positive effect on almost all social groups,
other than senior citizens and those with little or no education. The CPA expert
research team compared the above results with those of research carried out in
September 1999, and concluded that “the organizations of civil society have played
an extremely signifi cant role in exercising their authority over political issues”.
According to another expert, Vukasin Pavlović, “NGOs here took over a role of social
Beyond the very political change in 2000, some effects of the NGO campaign were
also felt in the longer run. From the perspective of civil society, the conditions under
which NGOs work have changed signifi cantly since the democratic breakthrough.
While the elections in 2000 represented a milestone in the development of
democracy and civil society, the further development of democratic institutions and
the implementation of democratic principles and values in Serbia have remained a
priority for the sector ever since. In spring 2005, two studies on civil society in Serbia
were published and revealed public perceptions of the sector and of the conditions,
in which it works.
15 Both showed the great importance the public assigns to the
nongovernmental sector in the political, social and even economic stabilization of
Serbia, in the promotion of reform and in the improvement of the country’s position
in the international community.
Although there has been a lot of criticism, and even some attacks on the NGO sector
in Serbia, and a new and improved legal framework for the activities of the civic sector
has not yet been put in place, the confi dence of citizens in their role as actors of
change has grown signifi cantly and has even surpassed their confi dence in political
parties. The main functions of NGOs in Serbia include education, the resolution
of social problems, the promotion and protection of human and minority rights,
support to the reform of state institutions and to the improvement of public policy,
local community development and environmental protection. In addition, NGOs are
active in promoting entrepreneurship, regional and international cooperation and
European integration.
NGOs have become an important partner to the different branches of power
(parliament, government, the judiciary) and at different levels of government (local,
regional, national). They have played an important role in passing resolutions on
European integration in Serbia, Montenegro and their State Union in 2005, as well
as putting and keeping the issue of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide on the agenda of
the Serbian assembly. A great number of international activities including research,
13 Quoted in Žarko Paunović et al (eds.), Exit 2000 – Nongovernmental Organizations for
Democratic and Fair Elections (Center for Democracy Foundation, Center for Development of the
Non-Profi t Sector, Civil Initiatives, Belgrade, 2001), p. 26, op cit.
14 Ibid.
15 Center for Free Elections and Democracy, Political Divisions in Serbia in the Context of Civil
Society (CeSID, Belgrade, 2005); Civic Initiatives, The NGO Sector in Serbia (Civic Initiatives,
Belgrade, 2005).

analyses, international conferences, seminars and publications in different fi elds
would not be possible without the expertise of the NGO sector and other forms of
support it provides.
Civil society and its organizations, thus, continue to play their role in shaping Serbia
and its democratic future. In so doing, they can still draw inspiration and motivation
from the central role they played in ending Milošević’s authoritarian rule and putting
the country on track towards democracy.
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta

September 3 – 5, 1999
Civic Initiatives organizes the NGO conference “A View into the Future” to discuss a
common plat form and activities for democratic change in Serbia, as well as relevant
experiences of Slovakia, Romania and other countries.
October 26 – 27, 1999
The conference “How to Achieve Changes” is organized by the Foundation for Peace
and Crisis Management and the United Trade Unions Nezavisnost (Independence).
Opposition parties, independent media, trade unions and civil society groups agree
that concerted action of a broad-based opposition movement is a pre-requisite for
democratic change.
February 18, 2000
Representatives of some 30 NGOs and opposition political parties adopt a joint
February 21, 2000
With a meeting organized by Civic Initiatives, Serbian civil society starts discussions
of a campaign strategy. NGOs from Croatia present the GLAS 99 campaign in
Belgrade and other towns across Serbia.
April 13, 2000
The campaign preparation board meets to collect information on activities and
campaigns planned by civil society in the run-up to the September 2000 presidential,
parliamentary and local elections.
June 2000
Two conferences are organized by civil society groups to exchange ideas and plan
activities related to the pre-election campaign. Some 400 representatives of civil
society and political parties from across Serbia and abroad attend these meetings.
June 21 – 23, 2000
Serbian NGOs and international donors meet in Szeged, Hungary. The Donors’
Forum is established to bring together funding bodies present in Serbia and to liaise
with further foreign donors.
July 6, 2000
Constitutional amendments are adopted to introduce direct presidential elections.
Analysts predict that these changes will secure Milošević another four years in

July 27, 2000
After weeks of speculation over the date of the election, Milošević announces
September 24, 2000, as election day. Besides the presidential poll, a new federal
legislature for Serbia & Montenegro, a new parliament for the autonomous province
of Vojvodina and local councils in Serbia are to be elected.
August 17, 2000
The IZLAZ 2000 campaign starts with a youth project in Kraljevo under the slogan
“Vreme je” (It’s Time).
September 1, 2000
The political opposition forms an 18-party alliance known as the Democratic
Opposition of Serbia (DOS). Vojislav Koštunica, a 56 year-old constitutional lawyer,
is elected joint presidential candidate of the opposition. In the immediate run-up to
the election, opinion polls consistently give Koštunica a lead over Milošević.
September 24, 2000
Elections are held in Serbia & Montenegro. International observers are banned from
monitoring the elections. Calls by the government of Montenegro for the election to
be boycotted are widely heeded.
September 25, 2000
The Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) claims victory, stating that it has won 55
percent of the votes. Vojislav Koštunica declares himself the “peoples’ president”.
September 26, 2000
The election commission of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia calls for a second
ballot, as neither candidate received a majority of the votes. According to the
commission, Koštunica won 48 percent of the vote compared to 40 percent for
September 27, 2000
Hundreds of thous ands of oppo sition suppor ter s t ake to the street s of Belgrade and
other cities to demand Milošević’s resignation.
October 2, 2000
A general strike begins in Serbia. Schools close, roads are blocked and coal mines
stop working. Milošević stresses his intention to run in a second round of voting.
October 3, 2000
A press conference is organized by the Center for Free Elections and Democracy
(CeSID) and the Center for Liberal Democratic Studies (CLDS) to present in detail the
irregularities observed during the elections.
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta

October 4, 2000
Koštunica goes to the Kolubara coal mine and is welcomed by thousands of
supporters as the general strike spreads across Serbia. The constitutional court
annuls the election results, but proposes that Milošević serve until new elections in
2001, a deal subsequently rejected by the opposition.
October 5, 2000
The opposition sets a deadline of 3pm local time for Milošević to cede power and
calls for a mass rally in the center of Belgrade to back this demand. Thousands
of farmers, miners and other opposition supporters from across Serbia converge
on Belgrade. After the 3pm deadline passes without a response from Milošević,
protesters take over parliament and state television. At 6.30pm, Vojislav Koštunica
addresses half a million supporters from the balcony of Belgrade City Hall, declares
Serbia to be free and himself proud to have been elected “president of the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia”.
October 6, 2000
The constitutional court confi rms Koštunica as winner of the presidential elections.
Milošević congratulates the new president.
October 7, 2000
The parliament of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia holds its constituent session.
Vojislav Koštunica takes the presidential oath.
December 23, 2000
The Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) wins a landslide in parliamentary
elections in Serbia. Its 64.7 percent compare to 13.2 percent for Milošević’s Socialist
Party of Serbia (SPS) and 8.6 percent for the Serbian Radical Party.

OTPOR! graffi ti and volunteers putting up campaign posters.
Campaign poster: “Time to clean up! Serbia
for Europe. Only change will bring us back to
Europe”.Campaign poster: “If not elections, then
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta

OTPOR poster: “Resist! Wake up!”.
OTPOR sticker: “He’s fi nished!”.

Protestor in front of the Parliament, Belgrade, October 5, 2000.
IZLAZ 2000 poster: “There is a way out! Get
out! Choose! Choose change! Exit 2000”.
IZLAZ 2000 poster: “There are more of us.
Get out and choose change! Exit 2000”.
Jelica Minić and Miljenko Dereta


Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze
Unlike in western democracies, popular and well-organized student movements
in the former Soviet Union, and particularly in the Caucasus, have been less than
signifi cant from a political perspective. No longer: with its appearance in April 2003,
the Georgian youth movement KMARA (Enough) quickly seized a central spot in the
political life of this weakened postcommunist country. KMARA is widely acknowledged
to have played an instrumental role in bringing about the Rose Revolution that ended
President Eduard Shevardnadze’s three-decade-long reign.
The Rose Revolution, effectively the fi rst bloodless change of power in the Caucasus
region’s history, brought with it renewed hope that democracy could triumph in
Georgia and the region, something many believed was intrinsically foreign to this part
of the world. Observers, among them Georgia’s new president, Mikheil Saakashvili,
have referred to the Rose Revolution as among the inspirations for a “new wave
of democratization” and as having led to increased attention and support for
democracy activists in the former Soviet Union. The Georgian experience convinced
western policymakers that regime change to democracy is indeed possible in the
former Soviet Union and will not lead to much-feared civil war, as long as certain
conditions are present.
Despite the attention the Rose Revolution received both inside and outside the
country, the actual extent and impact of western assistance available for the struggle
was remarkably limited. Why, of all post-Soviet countries, was Georgia the one where
such a democratic breakthrough was possible for the fi rst time? What factors and
actors made the revolution possible? How important and substantial was western
assistance? The following analysis endeavors to explore these questions.
Shevardnadze’s “Liberal Autocracy”
Many wri ter s and s cholar s have at temp te d to cla s si f y the kind of reg ime that ex i s te d
in Georgia and that could also be found in other countries of the former Soviet Union.
According to democracy theorists Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, the regime would
most probably fi t into the broader category of “post-totalitarianism”.
1 Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern
Europe, South America and Postcommunist Europe (The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
and London, 1996), pp. 42-51.

Georgian political scientist, Ghia Nodia, defi nes Shevardnadze’s regime as a “liberal
autocracy” or even a “liberal oligarchy”. 2 However, the defi ning characteristic of the
regime was that a number of fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression
and freedom of association, were more or less allowed, despite the regime’s overall
authoritarian tendencies.
When Eduard Shevardnadze was elected president of Georgia in 1995, the country
was beset by ethnic and civil strife, with local warlords controlling individual regions.
Seeking allies in outmaneuvering these warlords and aspiring to being considered
a democrat abroad, Shevardnadze allowed for the emergence of alternative centers
of power, including political opposition, independent media and civil society. Until
1999, this earned Shevardnadze an unjustifi ed reputation as a success story of
post-Soviet democratization among many western observers and governments.
The 1995 Constitution was labeled as a signifi cant step forward in the democratic
development in Georgia. The government recognized the need for holding regular
elections and the opposition was even able to score some successes in local ballots.
Nevertheless, “real power” was to remain concentrated inside a restricted network
of political elites. Shevardnadze believed that it would always be possible for him to
win elections and that, if the necessity arose, they could be rigged. And, while there
would be international criticism, it would soon fi zzle out.
Importantly, allowing such freedoms as were permitted was not exclusively altruistic
on the part of the government. Both the government and elements within the ruling
elites saw such freedoms as a tool to outmanoeuvre political enemies. The relatively
liberal climate and legislative framework, however, led to the development of a civil
society that did not accept the rules and practices of the ruling oligarchy.
4 Shortly
after being elected president in 1995, Shevardnadze surrounded himself with a
g r o u p o f w e s t e r n – e d u c a t e d r e f o r m e r s , r e f e r r e d t o a s t h e “ Z h v a n i a – S a a k a s h v i l i t e a m”,
with the intention of developing Georgia’s relations with western governments and
international fi nancial institutions, an important source of loans and grants, given
the ailing economic situation of the country. The administration also hoped that the
reformers would be useful for domestic public relations purposes.
With the reformers “contained” and with little infl uence on real policymaking, while
the old, corrupt, party nomenclatura remained in key decision making positions,
2 According to Nodia, “the assumption of the rulers was that they had to conform to certain
basic norms of liberal democracy. To be clear, all this did not mean that the opposition should be
allowed to actually displace the ruling elite from power through elections. The political system had
to be “civilized”, “progressive” and “reformist”, but political power should be held within relatively
small network of elites”. See Ghia Nodia, “Breaking the Mold of Powerlessness: The Meaning of
Georgia’s Latest Revolution”, in: Zurab Karumidze and James V. Wertsch (eds.), Revolution of
Roses in the Republic of Georgia (Nova Publishers, New York, 2004), pp. 96-97.
3 Laurence Broers, “After the ‘Revolution’: Civil Society and the Challenges of Consolidating
Democracy in Georgia”, paper presented at the University of London, December 2004, p. 1.
4 Ghia Nodia, The Development of Civil Society in Georgia: Achievements and Challenges
(Citizens’ Advocate! Program, Tbilisi, 2005), in Georgian.

President Shevardnadze thought the country could be run the old way. However,
once the reforms initiated by the new team began to confl ict with the interests of
the nomenclatura and Shevardnadze’s close (corrupt) allies, Georgia witnessed a
turnaround. The reforms were all but abandoned.
In the meantime, however, the Georgian parliament had adopted more than 2,000
laws regulating aspects of private and public life. Perhaps most important of all
was the General Administrative Code, making virtually all information in state
bodies public. The code became a crucial weapon in the hands of civil society and
investigative journalists for exposing the wrongdoings of offi cials and mobilizing
the public to engage in political debate. However, the Shevardnadze administration
believed that for as long as it could claim credit for the introduction of greater
political freedoms (in contrast to the situation in many other post-Soviet states),
challenges coming from civic sector could be simply contained and the scope of
action of rebellious NGOs would be limited to writing complaints to international
The system was steadily being eroded, however, and over time Shevardnadze’s
assumptions would be proven wrong. Vested interests and informal political deals
became well-embedded in the political and economic life of Georgia. The state soon
had diffi culties to discharge its key responsibilities, so reduced was tax revenue
as a result of rampant corruption.
5 It became increasingly diffi cult to satisfy the
manifold interests of the variety of groups surrounding the president. 6 Georgian
politics at that time did, indeed, bear the hallmarks of what some scholars describe
as the “blackmail state”.
7 The government’s inability and lack of will to confront
the problem of corruption led to the suspension of International Monetary Fund
programs already running and planned.
It was impossible for the president to maintain even a semblance of his image as
a reformer. When in 2001, the authorities attempted to shut down Rustavi 2, an
outspoken private TV channel, the reformers surrounding the president abandoned
the administration and went into opposition. By this time the decision had been
made. President Shevardnadze dropped the pretence of being a reformist leader
once and for all. While, admittedly, Shevardnadze can justly claim credit for the
fact that civil society in Georgia developed signifi cantly during his term in offi ce, he,
nevertheless, considered it his major mistake. In several interviews after the Rose
Revolution, he stated that he regretted not having made sure that the mechanisms
necessary for “managing democracy” were put in place in Georgia.
5 Lawrence Broers, “After the ‘Revolution’: Civil Society and the Challenges of Consolidating
Democracy in Georgia”, paper presented at the University of London, December 2004, p. 2, op
6 Ibid.
7 Keith A. Darden, “Blackmail as a Tool of State Domination: Ukraine and Kuchma”, East European
Constitutional Review, vol. 10, no. 2/3 (Spring /Summer 2003).
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

From the perspective of political culture, Georgia was a typical post-Soviet
society. Popular attitudes towards any kind of participation, particularly political
participation, were signifi cantly conditioned by experiences of the Soviet era and,
therefore, nihilistic and distrustful. In the public mindset, all elections were unfair
and, therefore, a change of government through elections was not considered a
viable prospect.
8 Such attitudes were particularly widespread among young people.
Political parties and politicians were considered with great suspicion. In people’s
perceptions, joining a political party or its election campaign was considered an act
of personal material self-interest and an attempt to enrich oneself. Truth be told,
many people did get involved in politics for the wrong reasons and some did, indeed,
succeed in lining their pockets.
In this context, political parties were clearly an insuffi cient condition and a weak
instrument for mobilizing a public so reduced by political apathy. An additional
obstacle was that the youth wings of the political parties were relatively weak.
Further, civic campaigns carried out in Georgia before 2003 were limited in reach to
small circles and urban areas and were not easily understandable for the common
Georgian layperson. The one positive effect of this was that people living in outlying
regions of Georgia were less exposed to previous campaigns and generally had a
higher motivation and enthusiasm, making their mass mobilization easier.
Three actors are believed to have played a crucial role in making the Rose Revolution
possible: the youth movement KMARA and civil society more broadly, the opposition
parties, especially Mikheil Saakashvili’s National Movement, and Rustavi 2, the
most prominent independent media actor at that time. Each of these groups played
a distinctive role in making successful democratic and nonviolent change possible
in Georgia. The identities and roles of these groups during the revolution will be
elaborated upon in the following sections.
The Emergence of Civil Society in Georgia
The emergence of civil society in Georgia began in the post-Stalinist era of Soviet
history. Embryonic elements of civil society developed in universities and different
unions that existed under the control of the state. In the context of Krushchev’s
attempt to develop the “human face” of the Soviet state, these associations were
permitted to voice some, although admittedly very little, criticism. These groups
were pivotal in the events of 1978, when Georgians defended the offi cial status
of the Georgian language, as well as in the turbulent events of 1989, that later led
to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s, environmental issues were
articulated as part of the national question and became a strong motivation for civil
8 Summary of 32 focus groups conducted by BCG Research, August 12-19, 2003.

society to organize. 9 Simultaneously, political parties concerned with similar issues
began to emerge, producing issue overlap.
The landscape changed considerably after 1995, when Eduard Shevardnadze’s
ruling Citizens’ Union of Georgia offered NGOs the possibility to participate in its
“reformist” political agenda. This led to another wave of development in the civil
sector. Many NGOs emerged around the ruling party and its political competitors,
all of which were seeking legitimacy in the eyes of the public. As a result, there
was a real boom in the establishment of NGOs, with their number rocketing to
3,000, of which approximately 500 became recipients of two or more grants from
western donors. Despite these impressive numbers, membership of NGOs was not
widespread and many organizations consisted of little more than their founding
member or members, looking more like generals without armies than civil society
organizations. Finally, NGO activity was largely concentrated in the capital, Tbilisi,
and did not manage to develop countrywide outreach. Understandably, NGO impact
on political decision making was rather weak, dependent on political, rather than
genuine grass roots, support.
The government’s decision to allow limited liberal freedoms was a political calculation
and did not demonstrate commitment to an open society. Nevertheless, it led to the
development of a civil society that did not accept at face value the rules and practices
of the ruling oligarchy.
10 However, Shevardnadze and his aides continuously thought
that while he could claim credit for greater political freedoms, challenges coming
from the opposition or the civic sector could be easily contained. Rebellious NGOs
were seen as weak, lacking leverage and intrinsic agency. Civil society was not taken
seriously and Shevardnadze lived to regret his own complacency.
The Emergence of KMARA: “These Young People”
Shortly after his resignation, Eduard Shevardnadze was quoted as saying “I did not
think I should pay serious attention to these young people running around waving
fl ags and painting graffi ti on the streets. I was wrong”. Few could have anticipated that
“these young people” would come to occupy such a central spot in Shevardnadze’s
The origins of KMARA can be traced back to 2000, when a group of reform-minded
students established student self-government at Georgia’s largest institution of
higher education, Tbilisi State University. This group’s primary concern was the
situation in higher education. It campaigned for radical reform of the education
9 Levan Tarkhnishvili, The Democratic Transition of Georgia (Warsaw, 1997).
10 Ghia Nodia, The Development of Civil Society in Georgia: Achievements and Challenges
(Citizens’ Advocate! Program, Tbilisi, 2005), in Georgian, op cit.
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

sector, which since Shevardnadze’s return to Georgia had witnessed an ongoing and
dramatic decline in quality and an increase in bribery. 11
This group’s activities were successful, widely publicized and included a campaign
that involved legal action against the university administration and revelations of
corruption in education to the media. With time, however, it became increasingly
evident that no reform would be possible in higher education without a change of
12 During the student protests following Shevardnadze’s attempt to shut
down Rustavi 2 in October 2001, a second group of student activists formed, calling
themselves the Student Movement for Georgia. The two groups joined to form
KMARA in early 2003, in an attempt to broaden the scope of civil society activity to
mobilize the masses.
Several other NGOs, namely the Liberty Institute, the Georgian Young Lawyers
Association (GYLA) and the Association for Law and Public Education (ALPE)
shaped the creation of KMARA. They were instrumental in facilitating the creation
of both material and networking opportunities for KMARA. The Liberty Institute was
responsible for coordination with the political opposition, training young activists,
regional outreach and public relations. They also networked with international
NGOs, the concrete result of which was a trip to Belgrade to meet OTPOR activists
and subsequent visits of OTPOR and OK ‘98 campaign activists to Tbilisi in early
2003 to inform their Georgian counterparts about how civic campaigns emerged in
Serbia and Slovakia, respectively. GYLA ensured legal representation and services
for KMARA activists and ALPE was active in developing training activities and public
awareness-raising on topics such as fair elections, police brutality and corruption.
After 2001, civil society was patently aware that further elections were going to
be rigged and that mass mobilization would be necessary to defend democracy
and fair elections. Mobilization efforts had proved their worth in other countries
where authoritarian regimes were ousted by mass protests. Finally, it was clear that
the traditional actors of Georgian politics would not be able to achieve the much-
needed democratic breakthrough alone. These realizations prompted the creation
KMARA’s campaign differed from those of the political parties in that it had
countrywide outreach, making signifi cant efforts to include traditionally isolated
communities, ethnic-religious minorities and the rural population. In addition,
nonviolent resistance was the form of protest chosen. Both the political opposition
and the general public were in favor of nonviolence, boosting the popularity of the
campaign and providing a strong counter-argument to the often-cited bogey: mass
11 Tinatin Zurabishvili and Tamara Zurabishvili, “Serving Bilateral Interests? Corruption in the
System of Higher Education in Georgia”, in: Evangelina Papoutsaki and Tinatin Zurabishvili (eds.),
Caucasus Higher Education in Transition (Civic Education Project, Tbilisi, 2005), pp. 41-55.
12 In one notorious case, the person named as the most corrupt member of faculty as a result of
a survey conducted by the group was publicly promoted and praised the day after.

mobilization inevitably leads to bloodshed. Also of signifi cance is that KMARA made
it clear that it was not running for political offi ce and positioned itself as a civic force,
thus, creating the conditions for cooperation with opposition parties.
Initially, the long-term planning of KMARA and the broader opposition coalition
targeted the presidential elections scheduled for 2005. However, a number of
factors, including mass fraud, the high level of mobilization among the population
and the nonviolent discipline of the protest movement made it possible to achieve
the sought-after democratic breakthrough as early as November 2003, when
parliamentary elections were held in Georgia.
The Political Opposition
Having joined Shevardnadze’s administration in 1995, the reform-minded “Zhvania-
Saakashvili team” found themselves “contained”, without signifi cant infl uence on
the executive branch. President Shevardnadze believed the country could still be
run the old way and reform was quickly abandoned in the wake of attempts by the
reform team to confront the corruption of the regime.
The crisis point was reached with the government’s attempt to shut down Rustavi 2
TV in October 2001. Reformers faced the diffi cult decision of whether to continue
to attempt to change the situation from inside the government or to strike out on
their own and start an independent political struggle: the familiar choice between
change from within or from outside the system. Mikheil Saakashvili, then Minister
of Justice, resigned and formed the National Movement Party. After an attempt to
rescue the old Citizens Union of Georgia, Zurab Zhvania followed suit and formed the
United Democrats Party. He advocated a more moderate strategy and more gradual
change than did Saakashvili.
Saakashvili’s main strategy could be summarized as the radicalization of the
political situation and the widening of the political space. He realized that even
with fair elections, something no one believed would be possible, several rounds
would be needed for the National Movement and other opposition parties to build
their electoral and organizational strength. He was aware that it would be diffi cult
to retain a disciplined and networked political force throughout this long period and
that it was necessary to show concrete results to his supporters in the form of a
13 At the same time, it was clear that in the existing political space,
and with the people already involved in the political process, a breakthrough was
impossible, demonstrating the need for new and more motivated elements to get
involved in the struggle. The 2001 rallies demonstrated that mobilizing urban-
educated groups alone was insuffi cient for such a breakthrough to succeed.
The enlisting of supporters beyond those groups had to be ensured. Groups that
13 Personal interview with Levan Ramishvili, Tbilisi, June 25, 2005.
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

emerged as targets of further mobilization efforts included members of the lower
middle classes, provincial populations and middle-aged persons.
One of the National Movement’s most important achievements was its success in
effectively reaching out to the populations in the (rural) provinces. In contemporary
Georgian history, the last occasion when the provinces played a signifi cant political
role was when they supported Zviad Gamsakhurdia in the lead-up to the civil war in
1991. In fact, any opportunity to take part in post-Gamsakhurdia Georgian politics
had been effectively destroyed for that group and Saakashvili made numerous efforts
to re-open politics for this highly frustrated segment of the public. As Saakashvili
radicalized the political space and opened it up for more alienated groups to
participate, he also bolstered his reputation as a brave anti-regime oppositionist.
He suggested that the reason for his split with Shevardnadze was that his strong
anti-corruption position was unacceptable within the government.
These political realities worked together in Saakashvili’s favor, as particularly
illustrated during the National Movement’s rallies in Kvemo Kartli and Adjara, held
in the immediate run-up to the elections in November 2003. No visible opposition
activity had taken place in either of these provinces. Kvemo Kartli, a province to the
s ou t h of t he c api t al, T bili si, i s inhabi te d by more t han 4 0 0,0 0 0 e t hnic A zer i s , mo s t of
whom do not speak Georgian and chose to stay out of national politics. Traditionally,
the central government easily succeeded in securing votes in this region, boosting
the numbers of the pro-administration “electorate”. Adjara, ruled by pro-Russian
dictator Aslan Abashidze always served as a political base for the Revival Union
Party. As expected, demonstrations in both of the provinces provoked a violent
reaction from the government.
14 The courage of the National Movement to step
into so-called “politically protected areas” largely infl uenced its swift advance in the
approval ratings and eventual victory in the elections, even though the rallies were
disrupted and violence was used. Hundreds were beaten in Adjara and the National
Movement’s offi ce in Batumi was burned down. The rallies were also important for
prompting people in these regions, who had been too overcome with fear and apathy
to participate in politics, to get involved.
These rallies showed the opposition’s, and especially the National Movement’s,
success at broadening political participation by energetically and courageously
confronting the Shevardnadze regime. As a result, more Georgians took an active
role in voting, and then in defending their democratic freedom to vote in free and fair
elections, as the fraud became apparent.
14 Within the framework of the cooperation, KMARA made available more than one hundred
activists for the demonstration in Batumi.

Election Dynamics
The mass protests that eventually led to President Shevardnadze’s resignation
continued for exactly 20 days: from November 3 to November 23, 2003. Following
the November 2, 2003, parliamentary elections, offi cial results positioned
Shevardnadze’s For a New Georgia bloc in the lead with 21 percent, followed by
Saakashvili’s National Movement, the Labor Party, the United Democrats, the Revival
Union and the New Rights Party, respectively. These results sharply contradicted
exit polls conducted by Rustavi 2 and parallel vote tabulations carried out by the
election watchdog, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy.
15 This
prompted, on November 3, a small number of demonstrators to gather in Freedom
Square in central Tbilisi, growing in numbers every evening. As long as the numbers of
protesters remained relatively small the government chose to ignore their demands.
Even after the National Movement and United Democrats announced they were
merging forces, the government took no action.
In the run-up to the elections, opposition and civic groups, including KMARA,
could not anticipate a scenario that would result in Shevardnadze stepping down,
given that the presidency was not even at stake in the parliamentary elections.
From the beginning they tried to be realistic, hoping for enough support during the
parliamentary elections so that the momentum could infl uence the presidential
elections in 2005, at which point Shevardnadze’s last term would expire. But, a
number of factors accelerated Shevardnadze’s demise, including the blatant
electoral fraud in the results from the Adjara province, the total unwillingness of
the government to even consider a compromise and the discipline, nonviolence and
organizational capacity of opposition groups.
Unfolding the Campaign
Following an initial planning phase in early 2003, which included the representatives
of two Serbian organizations (the youth movement OTPOR and the Center for Free
Elections and Democracy [CeSID]), the name KMARA began to appear in public
through mass graffi ti actions. KMARA’s fi rst public action was held on April 14, 2003
when more than 500 young people marched from Tbilisi State University to the state
chancellery. The student protestors carried fl ags from the Soviet period bearing the
faces of Shevardnadze and leaders of his newly formed For a New Georgia bloc,
stressing its implication in Georgia’s Soviet past. The protesters condemned the
government’s alleged intention of rigging the forthcoming November 2
elections. The day was purposefully selected to coincide with the anniversary of the
student demonstrations that took place in 1978, when Communist Party Secretary
Eduard Shevardnadze of the then Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic sided with the
15 Available in Georgian at
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

protesting youngsters against the planned abolition of the offi cial status of Georgian
as the state language.
From this point onwards, Eduard Shevardnadze’s government pursued three strategies
to contain KMARA and other democratic opposition groups: attempting to discredit
the movement, simply ignoring it and exerting limited repression, particularly in the
regions. At a press conference held on April 21, 2003, Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia,
leader of the National Democratic Party and spokesperson for Shevardnadze’s For a
New Georgia bloc announced that “Russian special forces are planning a large-scale
(…) operation under the code name ‘Enough’”.
16 The government further accused
KMARA of being the National Movement’s youth branch and of paying each activist
US$ 500 per month to stay involved.
Outraged by KMARA graffi ti in front of the Palace of Youth where the congress of the
Socialist Party was to be held, party chairman and new Shevardnadze ally Vakhtang
Rcheulishvili went as far as accusing KMARA of being part of an Armenian conspiracy.
At his monthly press briefi ng, Eduard Shevadnadze told journalists that on his way
to work he stopped his limousine to check whether anyone was reading the KMARA
graffi ti, stating that “(…) nobody was reading them”. In addition to the violence that
took place in Adjara, other repressive measures were taken throughout the country.
War y of a strong backlash, the police preferred to beat or intimidate activist s, rather
than arrest them (although, Adjara was an exception in this respect).
KMARA engaged in the kind of activism that cultivated a certain “mythology”,
portraying it as much more powerful than it actually was. This bluff-strategy began
with the trivially simple, but strikingly powerful, graffi ti campaign. Inspired by the
OTPOR experience, a group of twenty KMARA founding members painted tens
of thousands of KMARA graffi ti on the streets of Tbilisi. Within two days of Irina
Sarishvili’s statement to the press, the graffi ti was top of the national news, with
journalists emphasizing that the biggest KMARA sign had been daubed in front of
the Tbilisi offi ce of the National Democratic Party. Next morning, the authorities
mobilized the fi re service to remove the graffi ti, but soon stopped, realizing the irony
of the situation. During the following weeks, the ongoing appearance of KMARA
graffi ti in nine of Georgia’s main cities made headlines nationwide.
Other activities carried out by KMARA varied from assertive nonviolent “actions”
to university round table debates with the aim of involving students and recruiting
new activists for the campaign. Popular personalities were invited to speak at the
roundtables. This attracted attention to events and raised the level of participation
16 Giorgi Lomsadze, “Amid Controversy, Georgian Student Protest Movement Grows”, Eurasianet, /departments/rights/articles/eav061003.shtml, accessed June 4, 2005.
17 Interior Minister Koba Narchemashvili fi rst made this claim. Georgian special services, skilled
in spreading rumors from KGB times, spent some energy on disseminating this rumor as well. As
a result, even one of the authors’ mothers was almost convinced by her colleagues that he was
paid for getting involved in the campaign.

following campaign activities. KMARA also ensured the training of 800 activists
focusing on basic skills for participation in civic campaigns with the support and
expertise of the Liberty Institute and the Association for Legal and Public Education.
Activists and new recruits attending were from different parts of the country and the
training also aimed to develop skills for establishing KMARA cells back home.
With most of its activities pursuing the aim of mass mobilization for the elections,
KMARA’s get-out-the-vote campaign was of central importance. The campaign was
carried out with the support of the Open Society Foundation in Georgia and aimed at
raising public awareness about the elections and at encouraging active participation
in voting. Various activities were carried out within the framework of the program
such as TV advertising, concerts, sport competitions and the distribution of posters
and t-shirts. This voter education campaign was also strongly supported by the
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy.
Closely linked to the campaign, KMARA’s monitoring team disclosed approximately
4,000 instances of election fraud during the parliamentary elections in 2003.
Independent monitoring revealed that almost 30 percent of voters were excluded
from voter lists and denied their right to vote. Public opinion surveys were crucial
to revealing the fraud. Widely publicized by the independent media, these surveys
helped inform citizens about the outcomes of the elections and gave them a chance
to compare the offi cial results with independent fi gures.
From the beginning of the campaign, a comprehensive inventory of human resources
was undertaken. This inventory was based on reports provided by participating
NGOs, the donor community, as well as other individuals. Building on that, it was
important to develop networking with a variety of target groups including youth,
senior citizens, students, orthodox parishioners, religious and ethnic minorities,
local NGOs, local political activists and the local media. KMARA’s public outreach
effort was guided by baseline surveys regularly conducted in the various regions
of Georgia. The surveys sought to identify the mood of voters and differences in
attitudes between the various regions. The formulation of the main messages and
slogans of the campaign were heavily infl uenced by the fi ndings of these surveys.
Public outreach activities were planned and implemented in three stages: branding,
mobilization of volunteers and focusing on elections.
The “Secret” of KMARA’s Success
KMARA’s success can be attributed to several key organizational characteristics.
First and foremost, the movement had a horizontal structure. KMARA did not have
any single leader or a signifi cant hierarchy. By default, all activists were considered
equal. The horizontal structure served two crucial purposes. If activists were
arrested, the functioning of the organization could continue. While repression
in Georgia never escalated into mass arrests, this structure proved to be highly
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

effective in Adjara where Abashidze’s authorities took a more draconian approach.
In this region, the tactic of many unrelated cells being active was crucial for the
campaign’s survival. This structure also inhibited government and other agents
from infi ltrating and discrediting the movement. In reality, of course, the movement
did have leaders. Some activists had more weight than others. Nevertheless, the
absence of a formal hierarchy made it easy for educated and motivated activists to
make important contributions and to develop ownership for the campaign.
Keeping all activists busy was crucial to ensuring this sense of ownership and the
highest possible motivation to participate among all activists. Headquarters was
located in the capital and offi ces were established in nine other regions. The Tbilisi
offi ce coordinated planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of national
c ampaigns . All ac tivis t s worked in four fi elds: public relations, fi eldwork , training and
fi nance. Each group consisted of sub-groups. The public relations group included
sub-groups working on media relations, speakers, written materials and media
monitoring; the fi eld work group addressed issues of regional networking, Tbilisi
headquarters’ administrative issues and internal communication; the training group
was responsible for training trainers and activists; and the fi nance group carried out
fi nancial planning and oversaw spending.
KMARA’s most valuable resource was the time contributed to the campaign by
volunteer activists. Starting with a core group of just twenty, the number of volunteers
reached 3,000 during the campaign’s peak. Most of KMARA’s activities received
funding through the Election Support Program of the Open Society Foundation in
Georgia. The funds were not directly provided to the campaign as such, but the
materials developed for election-related activities (TV ads, fl yers, education
materials, etc) were successfully used by the movement for wider purposes. The
total amount of expenditure on KMARA activities amounted to approximately US$
KMARA could initially rely on a very limited number of activists which made cooperation
with opposition parties in the initial stages of the campaign important and intense.
Facilitated by NGOs and contacts in the National Movement and United Democrats,
the two parties’ youth branches clandestinely made hundreds of activists available
for the fi rst KMARA rallies, particularly that of April 14, 2003, adding credibility to
the movement and further underpinning its “mythological” power in public.
Other approaches to increasing KMARA’s perceived power were the organization
of actions simultaneously in different locations and mobility among activists. The
fi rst nationwide action was held on May 12, 2003, involving the mass distribution
of leafl ets outlining the provisions of the Georgian constitution on torture and
illegal detention and the picketing of police stations known for misconduct. KMARA
activists rallying in Tbilisi, Gori, Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Poti, Telavi, Akhaltsikhe, Ozurgeti,
Samtredia and Rustavi were joined by representatives of various human rights

NGOs. 18 KMARA’s proactive agenda and assertive behavior helped it to quickly
evolve into a legitimate and formidable presence in Georgian politics achieving
recognition of its brand at a very early stage.
A further essential feature of KMARA was that it declared that it did not aspire
to power and consistently retained a clear distance from opposition parties. This
attracted many young people, hitherto, not engaged. Activists made it very clear that
their motivation for being involved was exclusively to ensure a change of regime and
that they did not aspire to acquire political positions and the personal benefi ts that
were associated with them. By and large, activists did not view their participation
in the movement as a step in their careers, which allowed KMARA to avoid some of
the typical confl icts experienced in hierarchical organizations in Georgia. Further,
involvement in the movement was purely voluntary. Not a single activist was paid.
While, after the revolution, a number of activists did accept appointments to
positions in the new government, this should be viewed as proof of the effectiveness
of KMARA to enable talented young people to develop and succeed, rather than as
proof of any profi t-making motive on their part.
KMARA’s success was also ensured by its clever and continued use of humor in
its various activities. In a politically apathetic society such as Georgia, accidental
participation in or even viewing of KMARA’s funny and positive actions aimed at
making fun of the regime, produced sparks of participation among ordinary citizens,
some of whom did not even intend to vote.
19 At one such activity, KMARA activists
put large-scale banners on display in streets where passers-by could have their
picture taken fl ushing Shevardnadze and his government down a toilet. At another
event, they staged a mock funeral, replete with fl owers, in an effort to disrupt the
presentation of the economic program of For a New Georgia in the garden of the state
chancellery. Seven KMARA members were arrested and charged with hooliganism
for this attempt to inject some humor into political protest.
The Media
There is wide agreement that another major factor in the success of KMARA, and later
the Rose Revolution, was the independent media. In this relation, the independent
TV station Rustavi 2 has been described as “extremely important”.
20 Nevertheless,
several observers have exaggerated the role of the media in the Georgian revolution.
For example, and despite the fact that the printed press in Georgia is very diverse,
ranging from liberal broadsheets to tabloids full of conspiracy theories, their very
18 Similar actions were held in Tbilisi on May 4, 5 and 13, July 22 and September 24, in Borjomi
on July 6, in Rustavi on October 3 and in Poti on October 17, all in 2003.
19 KMARA’s “positive” actions included rock concerts, book collections for schools under the
slogan “Enough of the lack of education!” and the collection of rubbish.
20 Interview with Mikheil Saakashvili, in: Zurab Karumidze and James V. Wertsch (eds.),
Revolution of Roses in the Republic of Georgia (Nova Publishers, New York, 2004), p. 25.
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

low circulation prevented them from infl uencing public opinion substantially in the
run-up to and during the Rose Revolution.
Nevertheless, the media was instrumental and in order to examine its role in the
events of November 2003, it is necessary to take a step back into recent Georgian
history. After the armed coup that ousted Georgia’s fi rst nationalist president,
Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Eduard Shevardnadze was invited back to Georgia and into
government. In the beginning, Shevardnadze’s power was nominal, with members of
the military council and heads of paramilitary groups, such as Tengis Kitovani and
Jaba Ioseliani, sharing in decision making.
Wishing to curb the power of his opponents, Shevardnadze fostered the emergence
of a free press, in order to create space for a more experienced political player,
such as himself, to claim political advantage.
21 When in 1995, he succeeded in
arresting both of these notorious fi gures and began to crack down on paramilitary
groups, Shevardnadze turned to a team of young reformers who could “talk the
same language” as the West to help him consolidate his position. The so-called
“Zhvania-Sakaashvili team” also needed political allies. They, in turn, supported
the emergence of independent media, of which Rustavi 2 was the strongest and
best known. The fact that at that time, no single actor in Georgian politics had a
complete monopoly on power, made the development of independent media all the
more possible. At the same time, Rustavi 2 was a purely commercial channel and its
leadership engaged in a complex of political games with a variety of political actors
prior to the 1999 parliamentary elections.
When Shevardnadze’s regime began to waver and reform was abandoned in 2001,
the government tried to shut down Rustavi 2. This triggered mass protests among
students. The entire government was sacked and Rustavi 2 survived. Nevertheless,
Shevardnaze’s regime consistently tried to bring the TV channel into line using other
means, including attempting to buy it out. After the commercial Imedi TV emerged
as a strong competitor in 2001, the issue became one of survival, compelling the
Rustavi 2 leadership to develop closer ties with the opposition. Rustavi 2 also
provided a forum for NGOs to voice criticism of the government, enabling them to
pursue their own agendas.
23 This signaled a certain radicalization of the political
mood in Georgia.
In the context of the revolutionary process itself, Rustavi 2 co-sponsored an exit
poll that, coupled with parallel vote tabulation, proved signifi cant for challenging the
21 Personal interview with Levan Ramishvili, Tbilisi, June 25, 2005, op cit.
22 Ibid.
23 James V. Wertsch, “Forces Behind the Rose Revolution”, in: Zurab Karumidze and James V.
Wertsch (eds.), Revolution of Roses in the Republic of Georgia (Nova Publishers, New York, 2004),
p. 136, op cit.

offi cial, and fraudulent, results of the 2003 elections. 24 The poll was released and
televised immediately after the closure of polling stations, at 8pm on November 2,
2003, and succeeded in reaching a wide public. This guaranteed public discontent
would the offi cial election results considerably differ from the exit poll. Being well
aware of the “threat”, the government launched a campaign to discredit the exit
poll, inviting a foreign pollster to carry out an “alternative” exit poll that, as expected,
converged with the offi cial results. The public popularity of Rustavi 2 compensated
for this and undermined the rival exit poll.
Explaining the Nonviolence of the Rose Revolution
A multiplicity of factors contributed to the fact that violence, much feared by both
Georgians and western governments, was avoided in November 2003. The majority
of Georgian revolutionaries were not committed pacifi sts, despite the fact that both
KMARA and National Movement activists underwent intensive training in nonviolent
protest techniques. When the parliament and other government buildings were
occupied, the police had the legitimate right to use force, but chose not to. The
protestors were perfectly aware that the risk of bloodshed was real, but many also
believed that if bloodshed was inevitable, then so be it.
Importantly, the shadow of the violence of the civil war of the early 1990s still
loomed large over ordinary Georgians, and even over the government to a certain
extent. The semi-liberal nature of Shevardnadze’s power made the emergence and
strengthening of democratic institutions and democratically-minded actors possible.
When Zviad Gamsakhurdia was ousted, such elements were largely absent and their
systemic functions were carried out by paramilitary formations and criminal groups.
From the mid 1990s, government offi cials, including many in the police and the
armed forces, had to get used to emerging critical pressure from democratic forces,
even if limited. Their position became increasingly diffi cult after 1999, when their
legitimacy began to be regularly called into question.
26 Shevardnadze was also not
considered as having signifi cant blood on his hands. Although power and position
could be lost, it was not expected to result in cataclysmic violence.
During the protests that unfolded in the aftermath of the elections in November
2003, it became increasingly clear that President Shevardnadze’s reactions were
limited and inadequate. Numerous factions around him were vying for position,
24 The undertaking was also funded by the British Council, the Open Society Foundation Georgia
and the Eurasia Foundation and carried out by a U.S. polling organization called the Global
Strategy Group.
25 Ghia Nodia, “Breaking the Mold of Powerlessness: The Meaning of Georgia’s Latest Revolution”,
in: Zurab Karumidze and James V. Wertsch (eds.), Revolution of Roses in the Republic of Georgia
(Nova Publishers, New York, 2004), p. 100, op cit.
26 Chris Miller, Understanding Strategic Nonviolent Struggle: Case Analysis of the Georgian
“Rose Revolution”, BA Thesis, 2004, p. 39.
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

contributing to the enlargement of the negotiation space for the opposition. 27 The
fragmentation of pro-Shevardnadze groupings was enhanced by the fact that he did
not have a clearly identifi ed successor. When an army does not have a consolidated
and effi cient chain of command, it has diffi culties winning battles.
As for the police and the military, the mere fact that their leadership agreed to
negotiations indicated they well realized that with virtually the entire country involved
in the protest movement, with the “critical mass” already in place, any attempt to use
force would sooner or later result in their own downfall. The number of protestors is
not only important to legitimize the revolution in the eyes of the public, but it is also
key to overwhelming the police and armed forces at key moments in the revolution,
such as when government buildings are occupied. Nevertheless, on November 22,
2003, the risk of violence was strongly felt. While opposition leaders knew that some
units would not interfere, no news had been received from a number of special-
forces units loyal to the president.
Of course, an important dimension of the whole process was the explicit nonviolent
rhetoric and discipline maintained by KMARA. This approach is exemplifi ed by the
occasions KMARA activists distributed fl owers to troops deployed around the city
and when sandwiches were distributed to troops with the same care as given to
fellow demonstrators.
28 At no point did any group related to KMARA promote or
resort to violent actions in the name of the aims of the movement. The impact of
this discipline was most apparent during the occupation of the parliament, during
which only one window was broken, as the doors were too narrow for the number of
demonstrators to get through. Despite the outbreak of a couple of fi st fi ghts between
citizens and some members of parliament, assigned peacekeepers quickly subdued
such incidents. Groups of volunteers stayed in the parliament and the chancellery
buildings to ensure that looting and stealing did not take place.
The Role of International Actors
Western governments, particularly the United States, have been both vilifi ed and
lauded for supporting the Rose Revolution. Observers’ reactions have ranged from
enthusiasm about the future of democracy in Georgia and the region to far-reaching
conspiracy theories that frequently included crediting the U.S. Ambassador in Tbilisi,
Richard Miles, with being the eminence grise of the revolution. The fact that Miles
was also U.S. Ambassador in Belgrade during the revolution to overthrow Milošević
only encouraged such thinking.
27 A good example of this can be found in the interview with Tedo Japaridze, in: Zurab Karumidze
and James V. Wertsch (eds.), Revolution of Roses in the Republic of Georgia, (Nova Publishers,
New York, 2004), pp. 53-60, op cit.
28 Chris Miller, Understanding Strategic Nonviolent Struggle: Case Analysis of the Georgian
‘Rose Revolution’, BA Thesis, 2004, p. 48, op cit.
29 The chancellery was voluntarily handed over by its head.

Western assistance to the Rose Revolution can be divided into two categories:
assistance to lay the foundations for the elections by spreading democratic values
and educating the public and immediate political support in the run-up to and during
the revolution. Various western funding schemes for NGOs were important for civic
education and informing the public about human rights. But, since the funding was
foreign, the agenda was designed in western capitals and frequently focused on
the entire region, neglecting problems specifi c to Georgia. In other words, most, if
not all, of the western and US supported programs in Georgia existed in many other
post-Soviet countries and, therefore, they cannot be credited with the democratic
Some observers have failed to understand that during the revolution, the participation
of western actors was not always helpful. At times, it was even detrimental. For
example, Georgian civil society members had to work hard to convince some
Council of Europe offi cials that parties, such as the Revival and Industrialist Parties,
could not be considered opposition parties. Not only was U.S. Ambassador Miles
not the “mastermind” of the revolution, but, on occasion, his involvement proved
problematic. In particular, he strongly discouraged decisive action by the opposition
in favor of protracted negotiations and considered Mikheil Saakashvili dangerously
radical. The OSCE was similarly reluctant in its critical preliminary report on the
parliamentary elections of November 2, 2003.
KMARA’s campaign was essential for raising public awareness on election-related
issues and overcoming widespread political apathy, particularly among Georgian
young people, in the run-up to the 2003 elections. The press conferences, weekly
events, demonstrations, charity events and actions such as that entitled “Clean Up
Your Street – Clean Up Your Country” all contributed to the popularization of the
aims of the KMARA movement and made it a household name within a very short
period of time.
The movement’s countrywide network made it possible to organize “chain
campaigns”. An action initiated in the capital was simultaneously supported by
events in the regions, thus, creating the impression that KMARA was very powerful.
Fear in government circles of the movement’s popularity provoked counter
measures, contributing to the further popularization of the movement. Overall,
KMARA succeeded in informing citizens about their rights and the importance of
the elections, considerably increasing turnout and complicating the business of
electoral fraud. KMARA’s effective capability to project nonviolent power allowed
for the mobilization of large numbers of people eager to defend their vote when
electoral fraud was disclosed.
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

After the Rose Revolution, KMARA activists, like all other Georgians, realized that
their success had inspired many, to both the East and West of Georgia. They keenly
shared their experience and enthusiasm with pro-democracy activists in Kazakhstan,
Ukraine and Belarus. Several options were debated as to the further development of
the movement, including whether it should become a political party, turn into a civil
rights NGO or simply dissolve.
A variety of factors made the Rose Revolution possible: the incumbent regime’s
systemic weakness, its history of liberal policies, the National Movement Party’s
success in radicalizing politics and broadening political participation, civic education
efforts by civil society organizations during the years immediately prior to the Rose
Revolution, free media and the actions of the radical, nonpartisan and nonviolent
In Georgia, expectations of disapproval of rigged elections were reduced after the
West showed a very reserved attitude to the presidential elections in neighboring
Azerbaijan in October 2003. Nonetheless, the successful Rose Revolution convinced
many western policymakers that nonviolent regime change was indeed possible in
the former Soviet Union and would not inevitably lead to much feared civil war. Thus
prepared, the West was ready to engage much more proactively in Ukraine and its
Orange Revolution only a year later.
In providing this successful example of democratization, Georgian civil society also
contributed to the international debate on democracy assistance in Central and
Eastern Europe and elsewhere. It demonstrated which forms of support are critical
for making it possible for civil society to contribute to electoral change. These include
the necessity to fund and train election observers capable of carrying out parallel
vote tabulation and exit polling, ideally with support from similar organizations
from other CIS countries. Politically active youth groups, such as KMARA, must be
included, as should the broadest possible range of NGOs, advocacy groups, local
initiatives and other civic structures.
At the same time, in countries with more repressive and authoritarian regimes
like Belarus, where it is highly problematic and even dangerous to carry out
comprehensive monitoring, there is a risk that the regime will control election
monitoring projects and even successfully approach foreign actors to fund them.
The importance of spending on civic education should not be underestimated, but
this is a more long-term endeavor on which considerable money needs to be spent
over time. Finally, international actors such as the European Union and the United
States should abandon the illusion that rigged elections might “not be so bad” or
“an improvement over the last elections” in post-Soviet countries.
Today, Russia is a resurgent revisionist power that views the advance of democracy
in its immediate neighborhood as a threat to be avoided. In this respect, Russia has
launched offensives in the context of its bilateral relations with big democracies, as

well as within multilateral organizations such as the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Major stakeholders in the OSCE should not surrender
to Russian pressure and lower the organization’s standards on election monitoring.
Not resisting Russian pressure to increase its share in monitoring missions risks
a major loss of credibility. This can also put democratic activists and forces in
Finally, pressure on remaining non-democratic regimes in the post-Soviet space
should include sets of measures primarily focusing on the internal situation in the
country. For example, pressure should be exerted on authorities to stop arresting
people for distributing campaign materials and to release political prisoners. For
that matter, western and European Union ambassadors could make good use of
their diplomatic status and demonstrate alongside pro-democracy forces to make
everyone understand that freedom is a right, not a luxury.
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

April 14, 2003
KMARA holds its fi rst public action. Some 500 students march from Tbilisi State
University to the state chancellery to protest against the pro-government bloc called
For A New Georgia.
April 21, 2003
The leader of the National Democratic Party, which is part of Shevardnadze’s For
A New Georgia bloc, Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia, accuses Russian intelligence of
providing support to KMARA with the aim of destabilizing Georgia.
April 22, 2003
KMARA graffi ti appear all over Tbilisi and subsequently in towns across Georgia.
May 12, 2003
KMARA holds its fi rst nationwide action to condemn police brutality and corruption,
with demonstrations taking place in Tbilisi and ten locations across Georgia. Further
demonstrations are held over the following days.
June 2, 2003
President Shevardnadze threatens to expel organizations encouraging political
instability. Presidential aides later confi rm that these accusations were directed at
the Open Society Georgia Foundation.
June 3, 2003
KMARA and fi ve opposition parties stage a 5,000-strong protest in front of the
parliament to demand the replacement of the central election commission, whose
chairman and nine members subsequently resign.
July 13, 2003
Some 1,000 KMARA activists, human rights NGO representatives and members of the
three main opposition parties gather in front of the internal affairs ministry to present a
mock diploma “for adherence to President Shevardnadze and violation of the law”.
September 20, 2003
Over 1,000 people gather in Mziuri Park in Tbilisi for a free concert organized by
KMARA. Donations of Georgian books are requested from visitors.
October 2, 2003
50 KMARA activists collect food, clothes and toys for a local orphanage in Telavi.
One activist is arrested but the charges are not made public.
October 10, 2003
KMARA activists gather in front of the state chancellery in Tbilisi and stage a mock
funeral for Shevardnadze’s For A New Georgia bloc. Seven activists are arrested.

October 20, 2003
KMARA activists invite passers-by in Tbilisi to be photographed with the “Bloc Toilet”
campaign materials. KMARA and the opposition party National Movement organize
a rally in Zestafoni demanding the resignation of President Shevardnadze.
October 23, 2003
The KMARA offi ce in Tbilisi is vandalized by unidentifi ed assailants.
November 2, 2003
Parliamentary elections are held in Georgia.
November 6, 2003
The deadline for the central election commission to announce the offi cial results of
the November 2 elections expires. Hundreds of people gather in Tbilisi demanding
the resignation of President Shevardnadze. Thousands of riot police are stationed
across the city.
November 7, 2003
Thousands gather in Tbilisi and Zugdidi demanding President Shevardnadze’s
resignation and claiming the parliamentary elections were rigged.
November 8, 2003
Large crowds remain in Tbilisi as army personnel in riot gear block the state
chancellery. Hundreds of additional troops and riot police are ordered into Tbilisi
from Eastern Georgia.
November 9, 2003
As mass protests continue in front of the parliament, talks are held between
Shevardnadze and the three main opposition leaders, but quickly collapse. The
central election commission suspends further vote counting and demands that the
courts rule on the validity of the election.
November 11, 2003
President Shevardnadze meets with U.S. Ambassador Richard Miles to discuss the
political crisis as demonstrators continue to protest outside the parliament.
November 12, 2003
The leader of the National Movement, Mikheil Saakashvili, calls for demonstrators
to go on hunger strike until Shevardnadze resigns.
November 13, 2003
With approximately 10,000 protesters gathered in Tbilisi, government offi cials
propose the conscription of all KMARA activists into the Georgian army. Meanwhile,
Mikheil Saakashvili calls on citizens to withhold all tax payments. The central election
commission calls for repeat elections in nine districts.
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

November 14, 2003
Thousands of demonstrators surround President Shevardnadze’s offi ce, but are
blocked by police forces. Mikheil Saakashvili announces his supporters will collect
1 million signatures demanding Shevardnadze’s resignation, as several opposition
fi gures call for “full civil disobedience” beginning with November 17. The central
election commission fi les a defamation suit against Rustavi 2 TV and KMARA for an
advertisement claiming the parliamentary elections were rigged.
November 17, 2003
The Governor of Telavi, Medea Mezrishvili, resigns as demanded by a National
Movement demonstration on November 16. Elections are reheld in some of the
districts identifi ed by the central election commission.
November 18, 2003
Several thousand people gather for pro-Shevardnadze demonstrations in Tbilisi.
November 19, 2003
After criticism from President Shevardnadze, the chairman of the state radio and TV
corporation, Zaza Shendelia, calls a press conference to announce his resignation.
November 20, 2003
The central election commission announces the fi nal results of the parliamentary
elections: For a New Georgia 21.32 percent; Revival Union 18.84 percent; National
Movement 18.08 percent; Labor Party 12.4 percent; Burjanadze-Democrats 8.79
percent; and New Rights Party 7.35 percent.
November 22, 2003
Over 20,000 protesters gather in Tbilisi demanding President Shevardnadze’s
resignation and new parliamentary and presidential elections. Mikheil Saakashvili
leads the demonstrators to the state chancellery and issues an ultimatum to
Shevardnadze: resign within one hour and apologize to the Georgian people.
Saakashvili then leads demonstrators to parliament and proceeds to storm the
building without resistance from interior ministry troops assigned to provide security.
Protesters carry roses as they occupy the building.
November 23, 2003
Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, meets with President Shevardnadze and
opposition leaders Nino Burjanadze, Mikheil Saakashvili and Zurab Zhvania.
President Shevardnadze resigns late that evening in return for immunity from
prosecution. Speaker of the Parliament Nino Burjanadze assumes responsibilities
as interim president.
November 24, 2003
The results of the November 2 parliamentary elections are annulled by the Supreme

KMARA poster: Shevardnadze and his allies with Marx, Engels, Lenin. The slogan reads: “You are
a disease! Leave us!”.
KMARA photo actions in Tbilisi: Have your picture
taken with leaders of the pro-Shevardnadze “For
a New Georgia” bloc on their way to prison or being
fl ushed down a toilet.
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze

Caricature masks of President Shevardnadze and leaders of the “For a New Georgia” bloc.
KMARA activists block one of Tbilisi’s main streets in protest at the violent suppression of a
demonstration in Borjomi in July 2003.

KMARA activists defending the
parliament during post-election
November 22, 2003.
Demonstrators facing security
forces raise their hands to show
their protest is nonviolent.
December 22, 2003. Thousands
of protestors gather at Freedom
Square, Tbilisi.
Giorgi Kandelaki and Giorgi Meladze


Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov
The election of the president of Ukraine in 2004 was a serious test for the maturity of
Ukrainian civil society. The Orange Revolution broke out in the aftermath of obvious
election fraud. Lasting seventeen days, it brought millions of Ukrainian citizens
onto the streets in peaceful demonstration and protest. One in fi ve Ukrainians
participated in the Orange Revolution, making it the largest protest movement in
Europe since the end of the Cold War. While not a single drop of blood was shed, the
Orange Revolution led to a change of regime, established the rule of a legitimately
elected president and fundamentally altered the image of Ukraine internationally.
This democratic breakthrough demonstrated a high level of civic awareness among
Ukrainian citizens and marked the birth of a new political era for the country.
One of the key driving forces behind the Orange Revolution was PORA, a civic
campaign whose aim was to ensure the democratic election of the president in
2004. PORA was the fi rst to erect tents on the streets of Kyiv and organized the
famous tent city, blockaded administrative buildings and made a crucial contribution
to the organization of the all-Ukrainian student strike that was key to the Orange
Revolution. Prior to the revolutionary events, PORA informed and mobilized the public
about the elections and the potential of election fraud. During the second half of
2004, PORA conducted national grass-root information, education and mobilization
activities using “hand to hand” and “door to door” methods. In the absence of
independent mass media, PORA volunteers became a key source of independent
and alternative information for Ukrainian citizens. From March 2004 until January
2005, PORA distributed 40 million copies of print materials, involved in its work
35,000 permanent participants and an even larger number of regular supporters.
PORA activists conducted more than 750 regional pickets and public actions,
organized 17 mass rallies with more than 3,000 participants, set up the tent camp
on Khreshchatyk in Kyiv (1,546 tents and more than 15,000 “residents”) and 12
other tent camps across Ukraine. The offi cial campaign web site (
was among the fi ve most popular web sites in Ukraine in the run-up to and during
the Orange Revolution.
PORA was a special phenomenon. Actors of civil society in Ukraine were, for the fi rst
time, able to exert infl uence on the political process, thereby, creating preconditions
for the building of a new political nation. Boris Nemtsov, member of the Federal
Council of the Russian Union of Right Forces, said that “for the fi rst time in world
history, within such a short period of time, (PORA) managed to solve organizational

and educational tasks of fantastic complexity: to create an effi cient management
structure, to involve and train thousands of activists, to mobilize the whole society,
and fi rst of all young people, for the active protection of their civil rights”.
This chapter presents an overview of factors underlying the emergence and
development of PORA as a mass civic initiative, including a comprehensive
description of the formation and development of the campaign, the main phases of
its activity and analysis of the organizational and methodological principles key to
its success. In doing so, the chapter will focus on what came to be known as Yellow
PORA, not treating the related but distinct Black PORA.
Post-Independence Ukraine and Democratization
In 1991, Ukraine seceded from the Soviet Union and subsequently established
itself as an independent state. Rare among post-Soviet states, it managed to
avoid interethnic confl icts and civil war. On December 1, 1991, Leonid Kravchuk
was elected the fi rst president of Ukraine. In 1994, he was replaced by Leonid
Kuchma, who remained the head of the Ukrainian state for two terms, leaving offi ce
in 2004.
Since 2000, Ukraine has registered considerable economic growth. “In the course
of the last four years, the average annual economic growth rate was 7.3 percent,
industrial production increased by 16 percent and export volume, by 28 percent”.
The country possesses a developed network of oil and gas pipelines, depositories
and refi neries and an advanced electrical power grid. Ukraine is also a part of an
important Eurasian transport corridor. In early 2000, a team of reformers, led by
Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko and First Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko,
entered government. They initiated reforms to curb the shadow economy and
implemented a range of actions to improve living standards. Specifi cally, arrears in
wages and pensions were largely paid off.
During this reform period, Ukraine declared its aspirations for European integration.
This new approach triggered optimism in society and stimulated business and
social activities. Steady economic growth and booming business characterized
the period. However, the growing and infl uential middle and upper middle class of
entrepreneurs and young professionals were becoming increasingly dissatisfi ed
1 Boris Nemtsov, speaking at the ceremony marking the completion of PORA activities on January
29, 2005.
2 Infl uenced by Serbia’s OTPOR and Georgia’s KMARA, Black PORA advocated a more spontaneous
and decentralized approach, aimed at directly discrediting the Kuchma government.
3 From the speech of Anders Aslund in the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress,
Washington, DC, on May 12, 2004. The full text of this speech can be accessed on the following

with the clearly corrupt and authoritarian tendencies of the incumbent government
and their cronies, the all powerful Ukrainian oligarchs. 4
The success of the reformers threatened the interests of fi nancial, political and
criminal clans and a year after it had come to power, on April 28, 2001, the reform-
oriented government was dismissed. Viktor Yushchenko pledged: “I go in order to
5 This led to the rise of a democratic opposition led by the ex-prime minister,
whose successful reform policy guaranteed him signifi cant support among citizens.
By the beginning of 2002, the opposition had grown into an infl uential political force.
The political bloc Our Ukraine subsequently won the parliamentary elections in
March 2002. However, President Kuchma suppressed the parliamentary opposition
and created a pro-presidential majority held together by fear, blackmail and bribery.
The differences between these power blocs were increasingly characterized by
principled social priorities and geopolitical orientations: for or against liberal
democracy, a market economy and Euroatlantic integration.
Ukraine offi cially declared its aspiration to Euroatlantic integration and its intention
to join the European Union and NATO in 2002. However, during President Leonid
Kuchma’s term of offi ce (1994 to 2004), foreign policy was distinguished by a
6 doctrine, in other words, by the absence of clear foreign policy
priorities. The essence of the multivectorial approach was the constant and uneasy
weaving of a course between Moscow and the European Union and policymaking
on the basis of temporary political confi gurations. Most statements by Kuchma
claiming the need for European integration were declarative in nature and were
not accompanied by any real action. Nevertheless, given its geopolitical location
and human resource potential, Ukraine remains key to Euroatlantic security. The
geopolitical signifi cance of Ukraine even increased after the expansion of the
European Union on May 1, 2004, when it became an immediate neighbor of several
European Union member states.
By 2004, Ukraine was characterized by increasingly authoritarian tendencies, with
fundamental freedoms and the rights of its citizens at risk or openly violated. Society
had lost trust in the former communist nomenclatura that had been in power since
independence in 1991. The regime was highly oligarchic, dominated by three main
groups distributed regionally, controlling huge economic and political resources, in
particular, close relations with various parliamentary factions, the president and law
4 Anders Aslund, “The Ancien Regime”, in: Anders Aslund and Michael McFaul (eds.), Revolution in
Orange: the Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough (Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, Washington, DC, 2006), pp. 23-26.
5 Interview with Viktor Yushchenko, The Ukrainian, September 10, 2004. The full text of this
interview can be accessed on the following website:
6 See Viktor Zamyatin, “One Vector”, Day newspaper, April 27, 2004, https:// and Andriy Okara, “Ukraine Is Focusing”, Day newspaper, July 5, 2005,
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

enforcement agencies. 7 Civil society was becoming increasingly radicalized in the
wake of government harassment and the repression of critical nongovernmental
organizations. A particularly popular method was the fabrication of tax violations
and subsequent tax swoops. The aim of such activities was clearly to discredit
openly critical elements of civil society in the eyes of the public at large.
In light of the above situation, it was clear that the decision about which way
Ukraine would go would be made at the 2004 elections. The main contenders for
the presidency were opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko and the government
backed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was the former governor of
the Eastern region of Donetsk, and had served as prime minister since November
2002. While in the eyes of public opinion Yushchenko represented the voice of
“clean” government, the incumbent was understood to be the Donetsk oligarch’s
choice. Noteworthy is that in Ukraine it was common knowledge that Yanukovych
had served three and a half years in jail for assault and robbery.
The Development of Civil Society
as an Effective Opposition Force in Ukraine
Since independence in 1991, civil society has undergone a dynamic transformation.
At the beginning of the 1990s, numerous NGOs started to emerge. However, they
developed and acted separately. According to offi cial statistics, at the beginning of
2003, there were more than 30,000 NGOs in operation. Most of these operated in
regions with highly developed infrastructure, like Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk,
or in areas with cultural and intellectual potential, such as Lviv and the Autonomous
Republic of Crimea, where the Crimean Tatar minority is active.
With each successive electoral campaign, and the increasing authoritarianism of
the regime becoming evident, a new breed of civil society organization developed:
the civic organization dealing directly with electoral politics, its transparency and
9 Such organizations were frequented by young people who did not want to
join a political party (in their perception corrupt and self-serving) for the very reason
that they were concerned for the further development of the democratic process.
These organizations developed valuable experience of information, education and
monitoring. This period was also marked by considerably improved cooperation
between representatives of the civic sector. The emergence of infl uential NGO
7 Anders Aslund, “The Ancien Regime”, in: Anders Aslund and Michael McFaul (eds.), Revolution in
Orange: the Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough (Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, Washington, DC, 2006), p. 9, op cit.
8 For further information in this concern, please consult the following websites: and
9 Nadia Diuk, “The Triumph of Civil Society”, in: Anders Aslund and Michael McFaul (eds.),
Revolution in Orange: the Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough (Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, Washington, DC, 2006), p. 26.

coalitions and large-scale cooperation programs that encompassed many diverse
projects facilitated this. The largest NGO coalition, called Freedom of Choice, was
founded in 1999. Other infl uential platforms included the Coalition New Choice
2004 and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine.
The development of civil society as a strong and coherent actor in the years preceding
the 2004 breakthrough was underpinned by a number of factors. In particular,
economic growth and the development of a prosperous middle and entrepreneurial
class, with access to technolog y and, thereby, independent media and interested in
the business and social opportunities represented by political reform (including the
prospect of increased foreign direct investment), encouraged social claims for civic
liberties. Further, this burgeoning middle class became discontented with the obvious
abuses of power taking place among the political and economic elites and their
shameless personal enrichment. The worsening suppression of independent media
and the scandalous disappearance and presumed murder of Heorhiy Gongadze,
founder of the independent web newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, on the order of high-
level government offi cials, were particularly worrisome for many ordinary citizens.
As these various claims fell on deaf governmental ears, civil society became their
channel for articulation and with time, increasingly politicized and radicalized.
This development culminated in the launch of a complex program of cooperation
among actors in the civic sector aimed at ensuring free and fair presidential
elections that was launched under the banner of the “Wave of Freedom” campaign
in early 2004. It included a series of information, education and monitoring projects.
The implementation of this campaign became part of a democratization strategy
coordinated by different organizations, including the formal democratic opposition,
with the ambition of ensuring the infl uence of civil society on the political development
of Ukraine and to cement the country’s democratic and Euroatlantic choice.
The “Wave of Freedom” campaign included many projects aimed at public monitoring
of campaign fi nances and the drafting of voter lists prior to the elections, including
“hotline” information resources covering the elections, training for commissioners of
polling stations, international public monitoring of voting at polling stations abroad
and a large-scale public and voter information and education campaign called
PORA: It’s Time for Change!
PORA was a civic campaign whose aim was to ensure the democratic election of
the president of Ukraine in 2004 in free and fair elections through the provision of
10 Anders Aslund, “The Ancien Regime”, and Michael McFaul, “Conclusion – The Orange Revolution
in Comparative Perspective”, in: Anders Aslund and Michael McFaul (eds.), Revolution in Orange:
the Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
Washington, DC, 2006), pp. 9-27 and pp. 165-195, op cit.
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

independent information to citizens about the election results and the recording
of violations of the electoral process. PORA functioned as a united initiative of
hundreds of NGOs, involving large numbers of volunteers, and implemented dozens
of projects. PORA included elements of monitoring, information, education and public
protest. In doing so, PORA functioned within the larger framework of the “Wave of
Freedom” campaign. Despite being informed by the experiences of international
partners, PORA was driven and supported mainly by domestic Ukrainian actors
across society.
The main aim of PORA, based on the principles of openness, nonpartisanship,
responsibility, volunteering and the priority of public interests over corporate ones,
was to ensure conditions for the democratic development of Ukraine, including the
realization of complex reforms, the formation of transparent power structures and
the reiteration of the country’s Euroatlantic choice, during the 2004 presidential
The most important strategic goal of the campaign was to ensure the conduct of
free, fair and transparent elections for the president of Ukraine that would bring
to power a candidate genuinely supported by Ukrainian citizens. PORA did not
campaign for any presidential candidate in particular. A key principle was that the
people of Ukraine should decide for themselves who their president should be. In
addition, PORA members considered the conduct of a democratic election as the
fi rst step to improving the situation in relation to respect for freedom of expression
and the media, the elimination of deeply rooted corruption and the implementation
of urgently needed economic reforms.
The priority tasks of the campaign included the creation of an alternative mechanism
for delivering objective information about the course of the electoral campaign and
the positions of individual candidates directly to citizens in all regions, the increase
of voter turnout among those electoral groups that support democratic development,
national priorities and Euroatlantic integration, mobilization of the society for
the protection of their democratic rights and freedoms (particularly, in case of a
falsifi cation of election results or other illegitimate actions by the authorities).
The management of PORA was to a large extent provided by experienced activists
and leaders of both the student movement created in the early 1990s and the All
Ukrainian Public Resistance Committee Za Pravdu! (For Truth). Students constituted
the majority of PORA activists, which is explained by the fact that students are the
most educated and well-informed social group, with a high level of solidarity, thanks
to student mobility and the intensive use of new information and communication
technologies. The fast dissemination of information was crucial to the campaign’s
functioning. In those areas where higher educational institutions do not exist,
students of the professional and technical schools, gymnasiums, lyceums and even
schools joined PORA’s activities.

In the fi nal stage of the electoral campaign, representatives of small and medium
sized enterprises became involved. Representatives of the Ukrainian middle class
were not only a source of fi nancial and other resource support, but they were ready
to get involved in activities to ensure the elections were free and fair.
As a broad civic movement, PORA united a diverse range of people in terms of age,
social standing and ideological position. Campaign activists ranged from adherents
of rightist nationalistic movements across the political spectrum to anarchists.
Most of the activists were characterized by three fundamental features: a strong
commitment to the ideas and principles of democracy, determination to stand up for
those principles, even under the conditions of harassment and repression infl icted
by the authorities, and belonging to the post-Soviet generation. The mentality of
most PORA’s members was not shaped by Soviet ideology and was free of the fears,
prejudices and apprehensions inherited from the Soviet period that prevented many
members of older generations from participating in the protests. In fact, the typical
PORA activist was male, 18 to 20 years of age and a student in his fi rst or second
year of university.
More than 80 public organizations from different regions, mostly member
organizations of the Freedom of Choice Coalition, expressed their readiness to
lend support to the campaign and a “declaration about support for the nationwide
information and education campaign PORA” was signed by representatives of those
organizations in the period from March to April 2004. Members of the largest all-
Ukrainian youth organizations, including the Christian-Democratic Youth of Ukraine,
the Union of Ukrainian Youth, Zarevo, Young Prosvita, the Association of Law
Students, as well as student organizations in the universities and institutes of higher
education, joined the newly formed campaign.
The organizational structure of PORA was built on a model of horizontal network
management. The core element of the structure was the so-called Riys or regional
mobile group. These provided information and education to the voting public in a
given region and comprised of between 10 and 15 volunteers each. Approximately
400 Riys formed a network whose activities reached an estimated 25 million
citizens. Riys acted in circumscribed territories called Kusches, whose population
they addressed. 78 Kusches covered the entire territory of Ukraine, with each
addressing a population of approximately 500,000 people and refl ecting specifi c
regional, social and cultural profi les.
The organization of the work of the Riys groups was the main task of the coordination
center. It was responsible for elaborating the information strategy of the campaign,
coordinating the actions of regional units, organizing the production and distribution
of printed materials and consulting with partners. The coordination center also dealt
with contacts with the regions, the elaboration of the program of the campaign,
the creative dimension of informing the public, public relations, international
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

cooperation, security of communication and information systems, legal aid and
safety of activists (given harassment by the government), fundraising and fi nancial
management, and fi nally organizational support and logistics.
In addition, the campaign council brought together infl uential public fi gures,
representatives of the business community, politics, state and international
structures and was in charge of making important strategic decisions and securing
political support for the campaign. The constituent assembly of the PORA campaign,
with the participation of 70 regional leaders, took place from April 14 to 18, 2004,
in Uzhhorod.
In order to achieve resource stability and effi ciency, PORA’s coordination center
developed a decentralized system of fi nancial and resource management. With the
help of the campaign’s main partners, a scheme was developed that diversifi ed
the fi nancial sources and resource supply of individual activities and projects. This
s c h e m e h e l p e d t o d e c r e a s e t h e r i s k o f r e s o u r c e c o n c e n t r a t i o n . T h e c a m p a i g n’s i n i t i a l
funding was supplied by the founders of PORA themselves. These funds were used
to organize activities, to develop information support and print materials. Training
of activists was supported by small grants provided by the German Marshall Fund
of the United States, Freedom House and the Canadian International Development
Agency (in total, approximately US$ 130,000). It is noteworthy that this sum is
rather minimal in comparison to the overall amount of fi nancial support from the
international community received by similar movements in Serbia and Georgia.
Entrepreneurs from all over Ukraine provided the bulk of resources needed to
conduct PORA activities during the presidential elections. A signifi cant proportion of
these had been directly involved in the student movement of the early 1990s. The
support was provided in kind, including free production of publications, provision
of communications and transportation, etc. It is estimated that the value of this in-
kind support exceeded US$ 6.5 million. In cash, PORA spent US$ 1.56 million. More
than 60 percent of these resources were spent during the Orange Revolution for the
organizational needs of tent camps, transport, food, etc.
The development of PORA’s approach was inspired by the nonviolent student
movement’s participation in the struggle for independence at the beginning of
the 1990s, the experience of the Ukraine without Kuchma movement and of the
activities of the All Ukrainian Public Resistance Committee Za Pravdu! (For Truth) of
2000 and 2001.
Their methods included hunger strikes, demonstrations, rallies, picketing and other
kinds of strike action. The methods developed by the student movement in the areas
of volunteer network development, of establishing strike committees in universities
and of staging protest actions proved effective during the electoral campaign in
2004. The basic form of mass protest action (tent camps in the capital and other
cities) also has its origins in the student protests of the 1990s.

In the run-up to the 2004 elections, it became increasingly clear that Ukraine had
signifi cant problems of democratic development (widespread corruption, violations
of human rights and persecution of independent mass media). In this context,
protest initiatives re-emerged in the activities of the All Ukrainian Public Resistance
Committee Za Pravdu! (For Truth), established in the upsurge of mass social and
political resistance to the Kuchma regime in 2000 and 2001. The protests were
triggered by the disappearance and presumed assassination of the opposition
journalist, Heorhiy Gongadze, editor in chief of the Internet site Ukrainska Pravda, in
September 2000, and the sabotage of the murder investigation by the authorities.
The authorities then used mass repression against participants of the protests.
In the process of the preparation and implementation of PORA’s campaign, the
experience of Ukraine without Kuchma, Revolt Ukraine! and the All Ukrainian Public
Resistance Committee Za Pravdu! (For Truth) were thoroughly analyzed. Concerned
with avoiding hierarchy and maintaining horizontal relations with participants, neither
the Ukraine without Kuchma movement nor the All Ukrainian Public Resistance
Committee Za Pravdu! (For Truth) realized the importance of centralized coordination.
An overall lack of strategic planning and weak organizational capacity led to certain
executive functions not being performed and to a lack of supervision. The promotion
of a positive image of these movements towards the international community was
also lacking. Ukraine without Kuchma did not clearly identify itself as a movement
based on the principle of nonviolent resistance. Several clashes with police caused
a lot of people to turn away from the movement. The All Ukrainian Public Resistance
Committee Za Pravdu! (For Truth), on the other hand, suffered from excessive
politicization. Many of its members were also members of political parties, which
did not enhance the committee’s legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
Unfolding the Campaign
In accordance with the campaign’s goal and tasks, the plan of action was divided
into two main stages. Stage one included the implementation of various information
and education actions aimed at increasing voter turnout, counteracting censorship
and supplying voters with objective information about the electoral campaign,
the programs of the individual candidates, voter rights and the necessity of their
protection in the case of violations. Stage two envisaged the organization of mass
protests to protect the results of the elections, in the case of election fraud.
In March 2004 the principle elements of the campaign’s graphic line, its name (PORA)
and its logo were developed. PORA means the same in Ukrainian and Russian, which
is very important in a bilingual country. Besides, PORA can be used both as a noun
(in the sense of “the time has come”) and as an imperative with an appeal for action
(time to think, time to choose, etc). Yellow was selected as the main campaign color,
with the additional usage of black and red.

Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

The web site of the campaign was established at and served not only
as a source of information, but also for coordination among regional departments.
This website became, and remains, one of the fi ve most popular political Internet
sites in Ukraine. A system of immediate dissemination of information by SMS was also
put in place and proved to be important. On March 9, 2004, the campaign concept
was offi cially presented on – “Everything about Elections”.
One of the fi rst public actions of PORA, and one of its most signifi cant, aimed at
ensuring free and fair mayoral elections in the Transcarpathian town of Mukacheve
on April 18, 2004. These elections were held under the scrutiny of international
organizations, in particular, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE). Nevertheless, representatives of the incumbent authorities considered
them a kind of rehearsal for the upcoming presidential elections in October 2004
and applied an arsenal of the most brutal methods of obstruction: intimidation of
voters, physical clashes, disruptions at polling stations and the theft of ballots.
Despite the clear victory of the other candidate, the pro-regime candidate, Ernest
Nuser, was announced victorious.
In close cooperation with the representatives of the Freedom of Choice Coalition,
PORA activists worked as observers and carried out public surveys on voting day.
After clear indications of vote falsifi cation in favor of Ernest Nuser, the campaign
mobilized the town’s inhabitants to protect their rights and to put pressure on the
local authorities. Residents of a tent camp distributed brochures including copies
of the protocols of the district election commissions, the results of the parallel vote
count and exit polls conducted by independent NGOs.
On May 8, PORA activists addressed Ernest Nuser with an open letter urging him
to step down and apologize to the inhabitants of the town. The following day a
second open letter about the events in Mukacheve addressed to Prime Minister
Viktor Yanukovych was issued. By May 11, PORA had gathered more than 7,000
signatures from Mukacheve residents in support of its actions. The same day
picketers organized a satiric public action “Time for dry crackers”, which involved
the preparation of a prison diet for the head of the Mukacheve territorial election
commission, Yury Peresta (responsible for the election fraud). The diet was handed
over to Ernest Nuser. At the end of May, PORA activists started picketing the
Transcarpathian oblast administration.
In Kyiv, PORA organized an exhibition called “MUKAcheve of democracy” (in Ukrainian
this is a play on words: muka means pain or torture) at the premises of the National
University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, in which photos of disrupted polling stations,
broken windows and chairs and fi ghts with gangsters were displayed. On June 1,
PORA hung the campaign’s fl ag from the gallery during the parliamentary hearings
that were devoted to the investigation of crimes committed during the Mukacheve

With these actions, PORA succeeded in forcing the illegally proclaimed mayor
to resign. This success inspired the drafting of the PORA Manifesto, the basic
ideological document of the campaign, outlining its main principles, including
continued commitment to the struggle to establish genuine democracy in Ukraine.
This manifesto proclaimed: “Freedom is the highest value and must be protected”.
P O R A a l s o g a i n e d u s e f u l e x p e r i e n c e d u r i n g the monitoring of elections in the agrarian
Poltavska oblast in Central Ukraine (June 20, 2004), the important Southern city
of Odessa (May 30, 2004), and in the industrial town of Vakhrusheve in Eastern
Ukraine (July 11, 2004). During these elections, communication between mobile
group leaders, monitoring of voter lists, access to information, observation of
electoral commissions, control of the use of administrative resources, monitoring
of the vote and the organization of mass protests were tested. A key element during
this phase was the testing of different formats of information and education activity,
such as the “hand to hand” and “door to door” methods that also proved effective
for increasing voter turnout in the OK ‘98 campaign in Slovakia.
In August 2004, PORA played an active part in the Sumy Revolution, in which
university students in the Northern town of Sumy started mass actions to protest
against the unjustifi ed and illegitimate merger of several local universities and
political pressure being exerted on them by the authorities. On August 7, 2004,
against the backdrop of indiscriminate arrests of Sumy students, PORA restated
its determination to protect student rights in accordance with Ukrainian law and
international standards. The same day, participants of the PORA training camp that
was taking place in Eupatoria joined Sumy students marching on Kyiv.
Training played an important preparatory role before the active phase of the
campaign was launched. From August 1 to 8, 2004, a training camp entitled “PORA
pochynaty!” or “Time to begin!” was organized in the Crimean town of Eupatoria for
more than 300 regional campaign leaders. The intensive lecture and interactive
workshop program covered important skills for activists and regional leaders,
including internal organizational issues, external interaction of the campaign with
diverse target groups and methods of organizing of protest actions.
September 2004 marked the fi nal consolidation of a stable network of 72 regional
centers including around 150 mobile groups all over Ukraine. In the following
months, the mobilization of volunteers continued and resulted in the registration of
more than 30,000 people.
The information strategy of the campaign comprised fi ve main phases aimed at
individual issues deemed crucial for legitimate and democratic elections, including
dissemination of objective information about the electoral campaign and the
programs of the individual candidates, mobilization of voters to participate,
explanation of voter rights, information about criminal liability in case of breaches of
the electoral law and public appeals for mass protest, if needed.
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

September and October 2004 was the key period for the realization of the
information and education components of PORA’s campaign. The fi rst phase of
information campaigning, “It’s time to stand up” had already started in August and
primarily addressed students and young people with an appeal to join PORA as
volunteers. The materials produced during this phase were distributed primarily in
the student environment: universities, student dormitories, through the network of
youth organizations and during the training camp in Eupatoria.
In the beginning of September 2004, the second element of the campaign
entitled “It’s time to think” was launched, with the purpose of providing voters with
information about the presidential elections, voter rights, and the candidates for the
presidency and their programs. Diverse forms of publication, leafl ets and stickers
were distributed “door to door”, in public transport and using other creative methods.
Information was also disseminated through Internet and electronic mail.
By the beginning of October 2004, PORA activists started to implement two further
phases of the information campaign. “It’s time to vote” aimed at increasing turnout
among citizens at the forthcoming presidential elections. PORA used a range of
techniques including concerts, civic activities and printed materials to reach
different segments of the population, and especially young people. At the same
time a preventive action called “It’s time to control” aimed at preventing election
fraud, began. This phase addressed personalized letters to the representatives of
local authorities, heads and members of the election commissions and members of
law-enforcement bodies, informing them about their individual legal liability for any
violations of the electoral law. In cooperation with the Freedom of Choice Coalition,
PORA organized a nationwide monitoring of voter lists. This drew the attention of the
voting public to manipulations of voter lists during the electoral campaign. Further,
PORA conducted a nationwide action on September 29, 2004, in which appeals
to handle the elections in a fair manner were delivered to 225 territorial electoral
commission (TEC) members throughout Ukraine.
One of PORA’s key activities in this period was to discredit those mass media
that systematically spread biased and distorted information. Actions included the
distribution of stickers with the logos of fi ve well-known Ukrainian media (the TV
channels UT-1, Inter, 1+1 and the newspapers Fakty and Segodnia) sporting the
slogan “They lie”. A series of actions near the offi ces of TV stations (“It’s better to
chew than speak”, “Kill the TV within yourself”, and others) were also conducted.
PORA distributed print materials to the most remote cities and localities. This
became an extremely powerful instrument for overcoming the information blockade
and ensured that even citizens of the most isolated parts of the country could make
an informed choice. Despite distortions in coverage, leading TV channels covered
PORA actions, impressed with the unusual character and courage of PORA’s
activities. Laughter was an important tool in the struggle against the regime. For

example, PORA activists organized a theatrical performance called “Egg Relatives”,
alluding to an incident in which the Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, was pelted
with an egg in front of government buildings in Ivano-Frankivsk on October 4.
On the whole, within the framework of the six information phases of the campaign
(“Time to stand up”, “Time to think”, “Time to vote”, “Time to win”, “Time to
understand – they lie” and “Vote or you’ll lose”), 37 different types of printed
materials, with a general circulation of around 40 million copies, were published
and distributed nationwide. The English version of the PORA website and regular
news mailing played an important role in establishing and maintaining contact
with international partners and supporters. It not only provided people outside
Ukraine with the latest PORA news, but also generated international support for
the movement, such as the “Letter of Freedom and Solidarity” that was signed by
more than 560 people from 29 countries. In addition, a special newsletter about
Ukrainian civil society in the 2004 presidential elections, under the title “Times of
Change” was regularly mailed to hundreds of recipients in the United States and
State Reaction
Intimidated by the impressive scale of PORA activities and the elusive character of its
mobile groups, the regime launched an unprecedented wave of repression against
its leaders and activists, as early as October 2004. This persecution culminated in
the fabrication of a criminal case in which PORA was accused of acts of terrorism.
At a press conference on October 14, 2004, PORA announced an initiative to draft
a “Black List” of state offi cials engaged in acts of repression against PORA activists,
students and members of other public organizations, and known to be engaged in
violations of the constitutional rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens. On October
15, 2004, PORA’s offi ces in Kyiv were searched. State militia found explosives on
the premises. A criminal case against PORA was launched. Activists were charged
with the “organization of illegal military units” and the “organization of terrorist acts”.
This was followed by searches at the offi ces of the Freedom of Choice Coalition, the
apartments of the leaders of the campaign and the detention and interrogation of
more than 150 PORA activists. Fifteen criminal cases, with accusations ranging
from forging money to rape to the illegal possession of weapons and explosives,
were fabricated against PORA activists in different regions of Ukraine. More than
300 persons involved in PORA activities were detained before the fi rst round of the
presidential elections.
PORA responded with a series of actions under the title “We are not terrorists”. Namely,
on October 18, 2004, PORA activists chained themselves to the independence
11 The archive of all newsletters published can be accessed at
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

monument in Kyiv. PORA condemned the authorities’ attack on democratic rights
and freedoms, addressing NGOs, political parties and international organizations
with a call for solidarity, which was signed by the Freedom of Choice Coalition of
Ukrainian NGOs, the Ukrainian Helsinki Group on Human Rights, several well-known
Lviv authors, Amnesty International, representatives of the international community
as well as many Ukrainian citizens. Amnesty International called the jailed PORA
activists “prisoners of conscience”. The result of these actions was to shatter any
remaining illusion on the part of the Ukrainian voting public concerning the possibility
of holding free and fair elections. After October 21, 2004, PORA transformed from
an information and education campaign into a civic campaign aimed at organizing
the active protection of the election results, with a central focus on “direct action”
including the staging of mass protests.
The attempt of the authorities to associate PORA with acts of terrorism was a
serious challenge for the campaign. Maintaining the campaign’s legitimacy with the
voting public was crucial. For this reason, student activity was upgraded and made
more visible. In Ukraine, the public perception of students is generally positive.
PORA chose to create strike committees in educational establishments throughout
Ukraine. These later played a crucial role in the context of the Orange Revolution.
A Civic Movement with a Difference
According to Nadia Diuk, “the most striking aspect of the Orange Revolution was the
level of mass participation – not only in Maidan – but also the millions who followed
events by watching Channel 5, listening to Radio Era or hearing from friends and
relatives in Maidan”.
12 One would be forgiven for taking this fact for granted and
fl ippantly underestimating the achievement that this mass mobilization actually
represents. The eventual success of this revolution hinged on the success of PORA
and its partners to trigger the mobilization. The movement had much in common
with its predecessors in other countries.
13 Nevertheless, PORA also demonstrated
some uniquely Ukrainian features. A further discussion of both the similarities and
differences of PORA with other movements is warranted at this point.
PORA was created as an independent and nonpartisan initiative. Nonetheless,
the successful pursuit of its activities required frequent communication with
representatives of diverse political forces. Already during the mayoral elections
in Mukacheve, PORA cooperated with the leading candidates to ensure free and
12 Nadia Diuk, “The Triumph of Civil Society”, in: Anders Aslund and Michael McFaul (eds.),
Revolution in Orange: the Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough (Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, Washington, DC, 2006), pp.69-84, op cit.
13 See Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig, “Pora – ‘It’s Time’ for Democracy in Ukraine”, in: Anders
Aslund and Michael McFaul (eds.), Revolution in Orange: the Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic
Breakthrough (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, 2006), pp. 85-102,
op cit.

fair elections. During the presidential elections, PORA permanently informed the
candidates’ campaign headquarters about its activities and updated them about
the results of its election monitoring. However, PORA did not engage in election
campaigning for any particular candidate for the presidency.
After the results of the fi rst round were announced, PORA publicly declared that
it was clear the incumbent regime was determined to maintain power through
the manipulation of the presidential elections in favor of its candidate, Viktor
Yanukovych. In response, PORA launched direct actions aimed at protecting free
and fair elections, and starting from October 15, 2004, these activities were
coordinated with the coalition of democratic forces Syla Narodu (Strength of the
Nation), which included Viktor Yushchenko’s party Our Ukraine, the Socialist Party
of Ukraine, and the coalition led by Yulia Tymoshenko. Those political forces worked
together with PORA and some other civil movements (including Studentska Khvylia
[Student Wave], Chysta Ukraina [Clean Ukraine]) within the framework of a plan of
action that focused on ensuring the publishing of the legitimate election results
and the preparation of mass protest actions in case of election fraud. Hence, close
cooperation between PORA and the political forces of the opposition began only
after the fi rst round of the elections. This cooperation was based on partnership, but
did not include the integration of organizational structures or resources.
Given the nongovernmental and nonpartisan status of the PORA campaign, a broad
range of Ukrainian NGOs, international organizations and democratic movements in
other countries, in particular in Central and Eastern Europe, were counted among
its partners. Although PORA received only modest resources from international
and foreign partners, their experience, solidarity and political support did much to
strengthen the campaign and its role for the democratic process. The administrative
structure and human resources of PORA largely derived from the qualifi ed staff and
organizational resources of existing nongovernmental organizations, in particular
those belonging to the Freedom of Choice Coalition. Cooperation with the small
group of independent media helped to publicize PORA activities. The information
service “Hotline” (, an Internet-based newspaper called
Ukrainska Pravda (, Channel 5, Radio Era, and the newspapers
Ukraina Moloda and Vechyrny Visty played an important role in getting the campaign
message out to the people.
On the international level, and among similar foreign movements, the experiences of
the Slovak ‘98 campaign, Solidarność (Solidarity) in Poland and FIDESZ in Hungary
turned out to be the most valuable. The grassroots OK ‘98 campaign succeeded
in increasing the traditionally low voter turnout in Slovakia, thereby, securing the
peaceful transition of power from the Mečiar government to that of democratic
forces, using, in particular, activities in favor of voter mobilization, voter education
and prevention of election fraud. PORA organized its own strategy around these
three pillars. Key fi gures of the OK ‘98 campaign were instrumental in training
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

PORA activists at the training camp in Eupatoria and others contributed to the
development of the public information strategy of the campaign. Further, and similar
to Polish Solidarność, PORA was oriented towards the development of a broad
public movement and made signifi cant use of networked strike committees. The
partner movements of PORA included ZUBR
14 and other democratic organizations
in Belarus. ZUBR signed a declaration of partnership with PORA on March 9, 2004.
Representatives of these movements, along with many young activists from other
countries, took part in the events of the Orange Revolution.
The experiences of OTPOR in Serbia and KMARA in Georgia were less applicable in
Ukraine. The postmodern, carnival character of the Ukrainian revolution, its principle
of pacifi sm and the absence of aggression are key differences to the events in
Serbia and Georgia. Never theless, PORA used some of the creative elements, logos
and symbols of those movements (for example, the clock was borrowed from the
logotypes of the Serbian campaign “Gotov je!” [He’s fi nished!]).
Nonetheless, PORA was especially designed for the Ukrainian context, taking into
account the specifi cs of Ukraine’s social and political situation including its size and
population, administrative, cultural and geographical particularities, international
and regional factors, resources and partnerships
The Uniquely Ukrainian Dimension of PORA
The conditions under which the realization of PORA’s civic educational initiative, and
especially under which the organization of mass protest actions took place, were
very complex and diverge signifi cantly from the cases of similar civic movements in
other countries. They demanded the development of specifi c and context appropriate
techniques and formats of information, education and protest activity.
In particular, several conditions of the Ukrainian reality should be emphasized. First,
Ukraine has a very large territory (603,700 square kilometers) and population (47
million). It required considerable effort to cover the whole country with information,
education and mobilization activities. The well-developed regional structure of
the campaign signifi cantly increased the autonomy of the regional centers and
hampered attempts to put obstacles in the campaign’s way. Second, a relatively
small share of the Ukrainian population resides in the capital city Kyiv ( just four
percent), in comparison to Belgrade (the capital of Serbia) or Tbilisi (the capital of
Georgia), in which more than 30 percent of the respective populations live. Under
such circumstances, event s aimed only at Kyiv residents, would not gain nationwide
Third, the historical, social and cultural heterogeneity of the Ukrainian population
has led to signifi cant differences in the level of development, social situation and
14 ZUBR is a youth pro-democracy movement in Belarus (

linguistic preferences of its diverse regions. As a result of Russifi cation, spanning
long periods of Ukrainian history, the prevalent language in Eastern and Southern
Ukraine is Russian rather than Ukrainian. This language factor had to be taken into
account in the elaboration of print materials. History also had to be taken into account.
Due to Soviet propaganda, the leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists,
Stepan Bandera, a hero for many Western Ukrainians, has an ambiguous position in
the eyes of the population of Eastern Ukraine. So, while in other parts of the country,
his picture was used for a sticker campaign, in Eastern Ukraine a neutral image of
Che Guevara was chosen.
Fourth, domestic peculiarities in the development of democratic rights and freedoms
were also signifi cant. When speaking about freedom of speech or freedom of
the press in Ukraine, it is necessary to point out that the level of access to the
independent mass media differed widely between different regions of Ukraine.
The constant interruptions to broadcasting by Channel 5 meant that access to
independent information was very limited. Internet information was available only to
the approximately 6 million Ukrainians that have Internet access. The lion’s share of
Internet use is concentrated among residents of Kyiv and other major cities, where
civic protest and opposition were the most determined.
Last, the considerable interference of Russia in Ukraine’s electoral process
cannot be neglected. Several visits of President Putin of Russia to Ukraine before
the presidential elections, as well as his extension of premature congratulations
to Yanukovych after the run-off demonstrated the major interest of Russia in the
electoral campaign and its results. The attempts by Russia to infl uence the results
of the elections in Ukraine and the intention of the Russian-backed candidate to
introduce dual Ukrainian–Russian citizenship represented a real threat to Ukrainian
The main task of PORA, therefore, consisted of communicating a sense of the strategic
importance of the presidential elections for the future direction of the country to all
parts of Ukrainian society. It was crucial for the electorate to understand the need
for radical change.
Among the main challenges and obstacles that PORA encountered during its
emergence, development and activities, the most signifi cant and problematic were
internal problems within the civic sector and the absence of suffi cient coordination
and communication between members of the diverse civic movements and their
leaders and even competition between them. This was to a great extent overcome
15 Adrian Karatnycky, “Ukraine’s Orange Revolution”, Foreign Affairs, vol. 84, no. 2 (March-April
2005), pp. 35-52.
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

with the creation of powerful NGO coalitions, the realization of the “Wave of Freedom”
campaign and through the cooperation of PORA with friendly civic movements such
as Studentska khvylia (Student Wave), Chysta Ukraina (Clean Ukraine) and Znayu
(I know). Information and communication technologies also contributed positively
to this process. Regretfully, competition remains a problem of the third sector in
Ukraine, even after the Orange Revolution.
PORA had to take into account the absence of independent mass media, a factor
common to many authoritarian regimes. All hope for the dissemination of objective
information rested with the campaign itself. The establishment of direct contact with
voters, through “door to door” campaigning and activities in the regions, were crucial
to the campaign’s success. Even negative publicity in the mass media (independent
or not) is useful, if handled correctly (immediate refutation of erroneous or false
accusations, for example). Repression against PORA was also a serious problem,
as it endangered the capacity of the campaign to fulfi ll its mission. Effective
counteraction was possible due to the elaborate regional structure and the use of
decentralized management. This prevented the paralysis of the campaign when its
leaders were attacked. A further challenge was the absence of suffi cient fi nancial
PORA was able to overcome these obstacles as a result of a number of its specifi c
features. The highly developed regional structure enabled fundraising from many
representatives of small and medium sized enterprises at the regional level and
ensured that the campaign would not collapse if its national leaders were imprisoned.
The activities of the campaign helped to create a “presence” in every corner of the
country, which functioned as a powerful alternative means of communication with
citizens. The intensive use of modern technologies, and in particular Internet, email,
SMS communication and mobile phones, was crucial, helping to instantly spread
information about ongoing abuses during the elections and how to participate in
protests, and alternative information to that published in the regime-controlled
During the twelve months of its existence, PORA’s campaign became a pillar
of Ukraine’s new democracy: a community of people from different generations,
professions, social and geographical backgrounds and even espousing diverging
political views, united in their faith in a free, just and democratic future for Ukraine. It
became a genuine prototype for civil society development and after the completion of
its activities its transformation led to the creation of a number of civic organizations
and political initiatives.
The Civic Party PORA
16 is a new political party that was founded by several former
PORA activists in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution. Despite a delay in the
registration of the party and after a few months of legal wrangling in court, the
16 /.

party won a case against the justice ministry and was registered with the possibility
to take part in the parliamentary and local elections in 2006. The constituent
assembly of the Civic Party PORA took place in Kyiv, on January 12, 2005. This new
political party has become a new force on the Ukrainian political scene and has
the ambition to present an alternative to established fi gures in Ukrainian politics.
Civic Party PORA took part in the parliamentary and local elections held on March
26, 2006, forming a coalition with the liberal party “Reform and Order” and fi elding
the famous heavyweight boxer, Vitaliy Klichko, at the head of the joint electoral
list. Gaining 372,931 votes (1.47 percent), the party did not achieve the minimum
to be elected to parliament. But, taking into consideration the limited time for its
electoral campaign, it managed a remarkable success in the local elections. 361
representatives of the Civic Party PORA were elected to local councils at different
A further organization that has been created in the aftermath of the campaign is the
International Democracy Institute (IDI). This is a nongovernmental institution that
aims at supporting democratic processes in Central and Eastern Europe, by bringing
together the knowledge and experience of democratic movements in the region,
facilitating exchange between civic activists and experts and at building Ukraine’s
regional leadership in the fi eld of democracy assistance. IDI’s priority countries
include Belarus, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Moldova.
Finally, a range of nongovernmental organizations have emerged from the campaign
(among them the NGOs Civic Campaign PORA and Nova PORA) and aim at furthering
the accomplishments of the campaign and at becoming watchdogs of democracy
in Ukraine. The priority spheres of activity of these NGOs include the fi ght against
corruption, public information, voter education, election monitoring and the
promotion of Euroatlantic integration.
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

March 9, 2004
The civic campaign PORA and its concept are publicly launched on the website
April 14 – 18, 2004
Campaign activities begin with a fi rst seminar for 70 regional leaders in Uzhhorod.
April 18, 2004
The campaign’s methodology is tested during municipal elections in Mukacheve.
After the falsifi cation of the election results, PORA activists start protest actions that
fi nally lead to the resignation of the illegitimately declared winner of the elections.
April 27, 2004
The offi cial website of PORA is launched at
May – July, 2004
Practical tests of the campaign’s methodology continue during interim elections to
the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) in Odessa (May 30) and in Poltavska oblast (June
20), and during municipal elections in Vakrusheve and Luhansk oblast (July 11).
August 1 – 8, 2004
A training camp entitled “PORA pochynaty”, or “Time to begin”, is organized for more
than 300 PORA activists in Eupatoria, Crimea.
August 7, 2004
PORA supports the protest actions of students in the town of Sumy against the
illegitimate merger of local universities and later joins a march of Sumy students
on Kyiv.
August 1 – November 21, 2004
The PORA campaign goes nationwide. The fi rst of several stages of the campaign,
“Time to stand up”, begins. Over the next months, the stages “Time to think”, “Time to
vote”, “Time to win”, “Time to understand–they lie” and “Vote or you’ll lose” follow.
September 12, 2004
Municipal elections in the town of Zdolbuniv in Rivnenska oblast provide an occasion
for the further testing of the PORA campaign methodology.
September 20 – November 21, 2004
As a preventive measure against election fraud, polling station commissioners
are informed about their criminal liability in the case of any falsifi cation of election

September 29, 2004
PORA conducts a nationwide action in which appeals to conduct the elections in
a fair and democratic manner are handed over to members of all 225 territorial
election commissions.
October 1 – 31, 2004
In cooperation with the Freedom of Choice Coalition, PORA conducts nationwide
monitoring of the drawing up of voter lists and reveals irregularities in up to 10
percent of all cases.
October 14, 2004
PORA announces its initiative to create a “Black List” of state offi cials and employees
implicated in repression against PORA activists, students and members of other
public organizations.
October 15 – 31, 2004
A wave of repression against PORA by state authorities ensues, including the
fabrication of criminal cases, arrests of PORA activists, searches at the Freedom
of Choice Coalition offi ce and at the apartments of activists. PORA responds with a
series of activities entitled “We are not terrorists”.
October 20 – November 21, 2004
The “Orange Wave” is launched, in which the mass distribution of orange ribbons,
scarves and clothes takes place. Strike committees are created in universities
and institutes of higher education across Ukraine, with the aim of organizing mass
protests by students in the case of electoral fraud.
October 21, 2004
PORA transforms from an information and education campaign into a civic campaign
aimed at organizing the active protection of the election results, with a central focus
on “direct action” including the staging of mass protests.
October 31, 2004
The fi rst round of the presidential elections takes place and is observed by PORA
November 1 – 21, 2004
The information campaign “Everyone for the protection of the elections” and “Vote,
or you’ll lose” is carried out.
November 6 – 21, 2004
Protests are launched against manipulations that took place during the fi rst round
of the presidential elections. A tent camp PORADiy is established on Kontraktova
ploshcha near the National University Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

November 21, 2004
The second round of the presidential elections takes place and is observed by PORA
activists. That morning PORA activists block a bus leaving for Poltava carrying people
intending to vote with absentee ballots. In the evening, a column of PORA activists
marches from Kontraktova Ploshcha to Maidan Nezhalezhnosty.
November 22, 2004
A tent camp is set up on Khreshchatyk in central Kyiv. This camp is to become the
epicenter of popular protest during the Orange Revolution.
November – December 2005
Protests are systematically broadened to include a blockade of the building of the
presidential administration (November 24), tent camps near the Verkhovna Rada
(November 28), the residence of outgoing President Leonid Kuchma (December 3)
and the premises of other state authorities.
December 14 – 24, 2004
A motorcade entitled “Train of Friendship” travels 3,700 km across the Eastern and
Southern regions of Ukraine to spread the “spirit of the Orange Revolution” and to
advocate for unity and democratic development in Ukraine. Concerts, rallies and
photo exhibitions are held.
December 26, 2004
The third round of the presidential elections takes place and is observed by PORA
activists. Observers conclude that this time the elections meet international
standards. Viktor Yushchenko wins with 51.99 percent of the vote.
January 23, 2005
The offi cial inauguration of the legitimately elected president of Ukraine, Viktor
Yushchenko, takes place in Kyiv.
January 29, 2005
An offi cial ceremony is held to mark the completion of the civic campaign PORA.

PORA activists at a training camp at Eupatoria, August 2004.
“Don’t be chicken!”. PORA campaign sticker: “It’s time to understand!”.
1+1 state TV channel. “They are lying!”.
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov

Protestor chained to a state building. Placard
reads: “I am not a terrorist!”.
Protest during the Orange Revolution in Kyiv. Security forces block the streets of Kyiv. PORA activists during a demonstration in Kyiv
after the election fraud.

“PORA – Vanguard of Victory”.
Tent city at Kreshchatyk in Kyiv. Thousands of Ukrainian citizens take up residence in the tent
city as the protests snowball.
Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna, Yevhen Zolotariov



Vitali Silitski
The sequence of democratic breakthroughs in postcommunist Eurasia, often
referred to as color revolutions, has dramatically reshaped the political landscape
in the region and has raised expectations that a contagious spread of democratic
impulses will give rise to further democratic development. Unlike the revolutions of
1989 that brought liberal democracy to the Western rim of the former communist
world, this new wave of democratic transitions has spread to far more culturally
and geographically diverse polities from, Slovakia in Central Europe to Croatia and
Serbia in the Balkans, from Georgia in the Caucasus to Ukraine in the Western CIS
and fi nally to Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. These events have cast grave doubt on
the propositions of many commentators that civilization fault lines safeguard the
region from democratic impulses and that parts of the region are inherently unfi t for
freedom and the rule of law.
The role of elections was pivotal in galvanizing all these democratic breakthroughs:
from Slovakia to Georgia, people did not merely rise up against bad kings, they
made and then defended a conscious choice in favor of democracy. The mix of self-
organization, readiness for self-sacrifi ce and restraint shown by citizens, especially
in the context of the more dramatic events that took place in Serbia, Georgia and
Ukraine, was admirable. And, even in Kyrgyzstan, where the revolution was chaotic
and violent, the situation settled down much faster than critics anticipated.
The victory of the political oppositions in securing electoral change, with the support
of the nationwide civic movements analyzed in detail in this volume, re-opened
avenues for democratic development in several countries. Ironically, they have also
made postcommunist politics less democratic in some others. Most post-Soviet
states unaffected by the wave of electoral revolutions recorded a regression on both
political rights and civil liberties in 2005.
1 This deterioration is in many respects a
1 According to the Freedom House Nations in Transit survey, political conditions worsened in
Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in
2005. Out of the “non-revolutionary” cases, only Armenia recorded a slight improvement. The
situation in Kyrgyzstan also deteriorated, in spite of, or, as will be explained in this chapter,
because of, the nature and dynamics of the “Tulip Revolution”. Nations in Transit surveys for
2005 and 2006 are available online at and https://, respectively. For the methodology Freedom House uses to
prepare its ratings, see: /template.cfm?page=35&year=2005.

direct consequence of the anxiety of surviving autocrats about the possibility of
democratic contagion spreading to their countries and ousting them from power.
As will be explained further in this contribution, not only do such leaders react to
changes occurring elsewhere in the region, they also preempt them by doing away
with opponents, restricting the activity of NGOs, criminalizing democracy assistance
and targeting other potential threats, even though they are unlikely to effectively
challenge authoritarian power in the near future.
As a result, the wave of change is visibly fi zzling out. Elections in Moldova, Tajikistan
and Azerbaijan in 2005 and in Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2006 have all ended
with confi rmation of the status quo, as the attempts of the oppositions to mount
effective challenges were easily rebuffed. In more tragic circumstances, the bloody
suppression of rebellion in the Uzbek town of Andijan in May 2005 confi rmed the
length to which some of post-Soviet incumbents will go to cling to power.
Given this general trend, the overthrow of President Askar Akaev in Kyrgyzstan
following the rigged parliamentary elections in February 2005 stands out as a
notable exception.
2 After all the setbacks and acts of repression that have occurred
in the region following the Orange Revolution, the question “who is next?” seems
to have become increasingly irrelevant. Instead, it is questionable whether further
democratization can be realistically expected anytime soon and a more pertinent
question seems to be whether or not the age of color-coded revolutions has, in fact,
come to an end.
Unraveling Electoral Breakthroughs:
Three Forms of Regime Change
While the future of further democratization in the post-Soviet space may be hard
to predict, these initial considerations undoubtedly indicate that developments in
countries that transit to democracy through elections do affect realities in countries
that have not done so, so far. This being said, to understand the political prospects
of the countries of the former Soviet Union that currently remain authoritarian and
that move towards even more repressive forms of non-democratic rule, requires a
reassessment of the factors and reasons that were conducive to the occurrence of
recent democratic breakthroughs. This chapter seeks, through such a reassessment,
to challenge some of the views that have become popular in the wake of the several
color revolutions that have taken place and, particularly, since the Orange Revolution
in Ukraine.
Take, for example, the widespread idea that recent democratic change represents
a “wave” of revolutions. It is always diffi cult to determine causal links between
2 For an in depth analysis of the Kyrgyz case, see Vitali Silitski, “Beware of the People”, Transitions
Online, 31 March, 2005.

separate cases of transition to democracy. It is even harder to prove that these
causal links are prime movers of transition. 3 Are the recent democratic revolutions in
postcommunist Eurasia, then, a wave or, in a somewhat cynical defi nition of history,
“just one damned thing after another?”.
4 One can argue that the connection between
the separate episodes of regime change in this particular sequence is evident and
substantial. All of the recent revolutions have occurred in the era of Internet and
mobile communications, of global media and of a highly versatile international civil
societ y with reg ional net works of democr acy ac tivis t s . Today, inspir ational image s of
people power, ideas and organizational know-how spread at the speed the newest
technology can afford. Once “home” revolutions are completed, their organizers
move on to new territories, share experience and train new cohorts of aspiring
democracy activists. OTPOR in Serbia lent its expertise to KMARA in Georgia, PORA
in Ukraine and Kel-Kel in Kyrgyzstan. The approach of IZLAZ 2000 in Serbia can be
easily traced back to OK ‘98 in Slovakia and to the mass mobilization campaigns
witnessed in Romania in 1996, or maybe even further back to the fi rst-ever electoral
5, which took place in the Philippines in 1986.
Yet, even if all these transitions are considered to be a part of a wave, it is obvious
that there have been signifi cant differences between the different cases of regime
change, especially as regards the form in which they came about. Thus, elections in
Slovakia in 1998 and Croatia in 2000 were revolutionary in their consequences, as
both countries rid themselves of obvious authoritarian tendencies in political life and
fi rmly put themselves on track towards liberal democracy and European integration.
However, the events in these countries were not revolutions.
6 Instead, transition
occurred in both cases through regular voting exercises conducted in a mostly free
3 Michael McFaul, “The Fourth Wave of Democracy and Dictatorship: Compromise and Non
Cooperative Transitions in the Postcommunist World”, World Politics, vol. 54, no. 2 (January
2002), pp. 212-244.
4 This expression is attributed, alternately, to Winston Churchill and Arnold Toynbee.
5 There are two ways to defi ne electoral revolutions. One is procedural and refers to the situation
where “the emergence of two groups claiming sovereign authority over the same territory and
the subsequent attempt by the revolutionary victors to destroy the political and economic
institutions of the ancien regime” and occurs as a result of contested elections; see Michael
McFaul, “Refocusing American Policy toward Russia: Theory and Practice”, Democratizatsiya, vol.
6, no. 2 (Spring 1998), pp. 326-246, quote: 331. The second, outcome-oriented, defi nition is
given by Bunce and Wolchik, who consider electoral revolutions as voting exercises that “have
had political consequences that have been far more signifi cant for the future of democracy
than ‘normal electoral politics’”; see Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik, “Defi ning and
Domesticating the Electoral Model: A Comparison between Slovakia and Serbia”, CDDRL Working
Paper, no. 61, Stanford University, May 2006, p. 6. For the purpose of the present analysis, an
electoral revolution shall be defi ned in procedural terms and refer to elections with revolutionary
consequences, but without a revolutionary situation in process, as in the case of “transformative
6 See defi nition by Michael McFaul in “Refocusing American Policy toward Russia: Theory and
Practice”, Democratizatsiya, vol. 6, no. 2 (Spring 1998), pp. 326-246, quote: 331, op cit.
Vitali Silitski

and fair manner. The election results were credible and were accepted by all the
contestants. One can call this mode of transition transformative elections.
The transitions in Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004 to 2005
were electoral revolutions. Unlike transformative elections, they only began, but did
not fi nish, with the victory of the opposition in the elections. Once the authoritarian
incumbents tried to deny the victory of the opposition and to falsify the election result,
the opposition mobilized and took to the streets. Electoral revolutions are, thus, two-
step processes, combining regular electoral exercises with a popular uprising to
overcome vote rigging and confi rm opposition victory in a forceful, yet nonviolent,
manner. Due to this duality, electoral revolutions are essentially legalistic: the
legitimacy of the opposition power claim is derived from the institutions maintained
by the authoritarian incumbents, whereas society is mobilized to make the system
work according to its written rules. The legalism of electoral revolutions comes at a
certain price, however. While it ensured that transitions were orderly and bloodless
(the old regimes were automatically replaced by new leaders possessing legitimate
authority to sustain order), it also validated the institutions of the old regime, thus,
denying the victorious democrats a fresh start.
The regime change that took place in Kyrgyzstan in 2005 was exceptional and
cannot be classifi ed as either a transformative election or an electoral revolution.
Rather, it can be more or less viewed as a revolution in the conventional sense.
Although it was triggered by rigged parliamentary elections, the forces that were key
to overthrowing the old regime (it was rural under-classes, rather than civil society
and urban sophisticates who led the change) and the logic of mass mobilization
(which began at the periphery, not in the capital) were different compared to electoral
revolutions in Serbia, Georgia or Ukraine. No less importantly, as the opposition did
not win the ballot, the “illegitimate” revolution created a power vacuum that resulted
in violence and protracted political turmoil.
The Tulip Revolution may be considered the result of a collision between two confl icting
trends engendered by the previous, more conventional, electoral revolutions. It can
be said that forces of contagion (there is no doubt that the Kyrgyz opposition was
invigorated by the examples of other successful revolutions, particularly that of
Ukraine) unwound a bit faster than the forces of preemption. The Akaev regime was
prepared for something similar to what happened in Ukraine (which he demonstrated
by denying the opposition a meaningful result), but was at a loss when things
developed according to a different, unwritten and more chaotic scenario. The irony
of the turnaround in Kyrgyzstan is that most revolutionary in form, it was also the
color-coded revolution that brought about the least revolutionary consequences,
that is, any prospect for the establishment of a mature, liberal democracy.
This, however, demonstrates the limits of revolutionary contagion and the extent to
which those limits are inherent to the dynamics of the process. The pattern of regime

change is invented in countries with more favorable domestic pre-conditions. It does
spread further by virtue of demonstration, as the discovery of the “recipe for change”
empowers aspiring oppositions with a new repertoire of approaches and motivates
them to challenge authoritarian power, even in their less favorable domestic
circumstances. However, as “the cross-national impact of precedent increases,
(…) it is joined with weaker and weaker local structural support for change.”
7 When
revolutions begin to be driven more by contagion than by the domestic conditions,
they are increasingly characterized by “declining mass participation, more violence
and less powerful democratic consequences.”
8 In the end, local conditions prevail
over the contagious spirit of change and they stifl e the wave. Moreover, as episodes
of regime change put surviving incumbents on alert, the tide can even be turned
Domestic Sources of Electoral Change 1:
Unconsolidated Authority
The self-limiting nature of democratic contagion turns attention to the domestic
factors conditioning transition to democracy. One obvious aspect is the institutions of
the old regime. In fact, the degree of institutional openness to free and fair elections
determined to the greatest extent the form (if not altogether, the fact) of transition
by creating the minimum conditions for democratic challenges to entrenched power.
Thus, democratic revolutions were only achieved through transformative elections if
the integrity of the electoral process was not substantially violated by authoritarian
incumbents. This was particularly the case in Slovakia, a country that even amidst
the abuse of power and crackdowns on civil liberties by the national populist
government of Vladimír Mečiar, maintained the integrity of the electoral process. As
a result, when his party won fewer seats than necessary to form a government in
September 1998, he simply bowed out and quit.
Politics were more restricted and the electoral process was more abused under
the rule of President Franjo Tuđman in Croatia. In fact, with its Gaullist constitution,
codifi ed electoral rules advantageous to the ruling party, a record of electoral
manipulation and attacks on political opponents, Croatia was a classical example
of competitive authoritarianism, alongside countries like Ukraine, Russia and even
7 Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik, “International Diffusion and Post communist Electoral
Revolutions”, Communist and Postcommunist Studies, vol. 39, no. 3 (September 2006), pp. 283-
304, quote: 287.
8 Ibid.
Vitali Silitski

Serbia. 9 However, Tuđman’s death in late 1999, just a few months before the
parliamentary elections, intervened conveniently to throw the regime built around
the charismatic president into total disarray, disabling its machine of abuse and
denying it a chance to win in a fair contest.
Electoral revolutions, then, occurred in institutional environments that simultaneously
combined both the logics of authoritarianism and democracy. Competitive
authoritarian regimes were closed enough not to allow completely fair elections and
suffi ciently open to give the opposition a legitimate space for contestation. As a
rule, incumbents did not possess total control over the institutions of state, local
administrations and, in some cases, even the courts. This particular dualism was
created by the way in which these hybrid regimes developed. After all, incumbents
built their authority on electoral legitimacy and tried to present a semblance of
democracy by admitting a certain level of contestation and a degree of transparency
in elections. This allowed for the development of an opposition in parliaments and
between elections. Eventually, these nuclei grew into forces capable of challenging
The institutional duality of competitive authoritarianism was also replicated in
state-society relations and allowed extensive and legitimate space for independent
organization, social autonomy, civil society and independent media, including TV
and radio broadcasting. Decentralization of power and infl uence was also achieved
to varying degrees through economic means, as consolidated control was absent
not only in politics, but in the business sphere, which secured domestic fi nancial
bases for the opposition.
Competitive authoritarianism worked smoothly to the extent that incumbents
managed to validate their authority through partially controlled and manipulated
elections. However, when they were no longer able to do so, the ploy failed and
paved the way for democratic change. In these moments of crisis, the dualism of
competitive authoritarian rule played in favor of the opposition. Partially decentralized
authority hampered attempts to cover up vote rigging and to crack down on popular
protest. Independent media, particularly electronic media, mobilized people onto the
streets. And, the signifi cant independence of parliaments and courts ensured legal
solutions to political crises, which incumbents were then compelled to accept.
9 Competitive authoritarianism refers to political regimes that, while falling short of democracy,
“also fall short of full-scale authoritarianism. Although incumbents in competitive authoritarian
regimes may routinely manipulate formal democratic rules, they are unable to eliminate them
or reduce them to a mere façade (…) As a result, even though democratic institutions may be
badly fl awed, both authoritarian incumbents and their opponents must take them seriously”;
see Stephen Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism”, Journal of
Democracy, vol. 13, no. 2 (April 2002), pp. 51-65, quote: 53f.
10 Even while Tuđman was alive, the opposition had a commanding lead in the polls. Not only did
his death accelerate events, the ruling HDZ proved unable to put forward a candidate capable of
competing with the opposition nominee, Stipe Mesić; see Fisher and Bijelić in this volume.

Unconsolidated power in competitive authoritarian regimes also had social roots.
Many of these regimes were “pluralistic by default”. The multitude of social, cultural,
economic and political cleavages in these societies ensured that politics was
fragmented and power dispersed, simply because no single force or individual could
grab it all. These societies lacked both the homogeneity that would allow for the
emergence of primitive sultanistic rule, as well as an overarching democratic political
culture of consensus and compromise. On the one hand, such divided polities play
into the hands of the incumbents, by giving them a ready social base and a ready
sense of purpose to “protect” their loyal following from dangerous “others”, such as
pro-western liberals, nationalists or a combination of the two. On the other hand, a
divided polity also means that the opposition can mobilize those social forces left
behind by the incumbent power-holders.
Domestic Sources of Electoral Change 2:
Leadership and Hegemony Advantage
Yet, institutions alone do not pre-determine political outcomes. Regime change can
only occur once the social demand for political change is fi rmly in place and once
a credible and suffi ciently united democratic opposition with a leader capable and
worthy of election has emerged. The emergence of social demand is not simply
and exclusively determined by the deterioration of economic conditions, unbearable
poverty and public resentment of corruption among those in power. While the voting
publics in Belgrade, Tbilisi and Kyiv were truly angered at their leaders’ ongoing
excesses, they were equally prone to repeatedly vote down democratic candidates
in similarly dire, if not worse, economic circumstances throughout the 1990s.
Discussions about the supply side of the equation, or the availability of effective
democratic agency, often place emphasis on the mobilization of public protest by
groups, such as OTPOR in Serbia, KMARA in Georgia or PORA in Ukraine. Without
a doubt, these groups played an important part and an indispensable role in
the democratic transitions in those countries. They demystifi ed the regimes and
unmasked their primary weaknesses, including fear of their own people and
especially of young people. The members of these groups motivated their parents to
become active and they rallied crowds for the post-election protests. However, youth
movements did not win the elections per se. They only helped to defend victories
achieved by democratic politicians.
The experience of Belarus confi rms that civil society, without the existence of
a strong political opposition and without a credible opposition leadership, is
essentially powerless. It can mount a strong moral challenge to the dictator, but not
a political one. In 2001, when the opposition campaign for the presidential elections
tried to steer towards the Serbian scenario of an electoral revolution, Belarus could
boast its own replica of OTPOR, called ZUBR (Bison). There also existed a rather
Vitali Silitski

sophisticated and reasonably well-organized NGO campaign geared towards voter
mobilization. Yet, Belarus was nowhere close to developing the powerful opposition
movement that, for example, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia was. No credible
opposition leader was available to lead the movement, as did Koštunica in Serbia,
Saakashvili in Georgia or Yushchenko in Ukraine. And, of course, the institutions of
Lukashenka’s power had already been fully consolidated to the extent necessary to
deny any degree of fairness in the elections. The failure of the political opposition
also doomed civil society to failure. History repeated itself in many respects
during the March 2006 presidential elections. Although the opposition achieved
a high degree of unity and conducted a vigorous campaign, its challenge for power
was rather feeble and unconvincing to society. Mass protests that erupted after
election day on March 19, 2006, surprised many observers with their initial size
and determination. However, opposition leaders had little idea how to manage and
direct these protests, since they were unable to declare victory for their candidate,
Alaksandar Milinkievič, and thus, to set objectives for the protest. A spontaneous
and disorganized action by civil society, it quickly fi zzled out and was easily put down
by the authorities.
If considering the opposition, two political advantages have been critical for ensuring
democratic change in the most recent cases of transition to democracy. The fi rst is
leadership advantage.
12 Electoral revolutions, in particular, require a combination of
various factors, including opposition leaders who can, with equal success, win votes
and rally crowds to street protests, two tasks that are hard to combine. Milošević
might have been bankrupt by 2000, but no one except Koštunica could beat him
(and he needed Zoran Đinđić’s help to rally the streets and neutralize Milošević’s
henchmen). Kuchma annoyed and antagonized Ukrainians in both the country’s East
and West, but without Yushchenko, the Orange Revolution against Kuchma’s chosen
successor would have had little chance of even starting (and it might not have
ended as it did without the fl air and determination of his then second in command,
Yulia Tymoshenko). And, it is even harder to imagine the Rose Revolution in Georgia
without the persistence and charisma, the risk-taking and the ability to make
impossible decisions that was demonstrated by Mikheil Saakashvili (who also had a
key lieutenant to manage the revolution backstage, the late Zurab Zhvania). After all,
he managed to organize the ouster of Shevardnadze in the context of parliamentary
elections, in which the offi ce of the president was not even at stake.
11 For more on the March 2006 presidential elections in Belarus, see Vitali Silitski, “Belarus:
Learning from Defeat”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 17, no. 4 (October 2006), pp. 138-152.
12 Leadership advantage refers to the electoral and mobilizational capacities of the democratic
opposition usually dependent on the appeal, charisma and (or) organizational skills of its leader.
13 Of course, this description somewhat simplifi es the leadership factor. In all three cases of
electoral revolution, there were tandems between popular leaders (Koštunica, Saakashvili and
Yushchenko) and effective opposition managers (Đinđić, Zhvania and Tymoshenko).

The opposition’s leadership advantage in all these electoral revolutions was nicely
complemented by the complacency of the incumbents. Milošević sincerely believed
he could win 70 percent of the votes and he even amended the constitution to
arrange for direct presidential elections. Shevardnadze admitted after his downfall
that he could not imagine youngsters shouting at him, let alone overthrowing him.
By contrast, Kuchma and Yanukovych were alert to the risks. However, even they
considered their task easier than it actually was, as a strong vote for the incumbent
prime minister in the East and unlimited administrative control of Eastern provinces
suggested that, if necessary, electoral fraud would be easy to organize and could
be relatively limited in scale. That logic eventually proved disastrous, as widespread
election rigging in one region proved to be just too obvious.
The second important factor that ensured the opposition’s domination in the electoral
politics of unconsolidated autocracies was the occurrence of a remarkable shift in
hegemony advantage in favor of the opposition.
14 Hegemony has been crucial in all
the recent democratic breakthroughs for one simple reason. All of the discussed
countries were formerly parts of multi-ethnic federal states (Czechoslovakia,
Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union). The collapse of communism ushered them into the
era of independent national development, at the beginning of which authoritarian
politics could be justifi ed by the necessity of state- and nation-building. The ability
of the opposition to equate, or at least reconcile, the notion of the nation with
democracy was a crucial factor in denying legitimacy to authoritarian politics and
their protagonists. Overall, the shift in hegemony advantage “undermined incumbent
capacity and facilitated opposition mobilization even when civil society was weak.”
The recovery of hegemony advantage was facilitated wherever incumbents claimed
democratic credentials and tried to develop positive relations with the West, thus,
engaging in policies and discourses that legitimized democratic opposition and civil
In those countries that experienced democratic breakthroughs through
transformative elections, one could easily cede some ground to the Huntingtonian
16 as it was hardly possible for Slovakia and Croatia to indefi nitely justify
authoritarian rule by pointing at the democratic West as a civilizational enemy. The
picture was radically different in Serbia, where the anti-western overtones of Serbian
nationalist mythology provided seemingly solid foundations for the authoritarian rule
14 Hegemony advantage can be understood as the capacity to connect the political agenda
to identity. A position gains hegemony advantage if it manages to formulate identity in anti-
incumbent and, moreover, anti-authoritarian terms. This term is closely connected to and inspired
by what Lucan Way defi ned as “anti-incumbent identity”; see Lucan A. Way, “Authoritarian State
Building and the Sources of Regime Competitiveness in the Fourth Wave: The Cases of Belarus,
Moldova, Russia and Ukraine”, World Politics, no. 57 (January 2005), pp. 231-61.
15 Ibid, p. 232.
16 Here, reference is made to the concept of civilization and the connection made by Samuel T.
Huntington between western culture and the spread of democracy in his 1998 book, “The Clash
of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order”.
Vitali Silitski

of Milošević. 17 His downfall is widely associated with the disenchantment of Serbs
with nationalism. Following the catastrophic consequences of the defeat in Kosovo
in 1999, Milošević failed to maintain the trust of the nationalists, that is, those
who had initially entrusted him with the establishment of a Greater Serbia. But, it is
also important to note that the opposition was increasingly successful in merging
nationalism with democracy.
In both Georgia and Ukraine, the shift in hegemony advantage was an unexpected
consequence of the semi-authoritarian incumbents’ own policies of self-legitimization,
state building and their strategies for securing international legitimacy and foreign
assistance. This had a particularly profound impact in Ukraine. The failure of the fi rst
attempt at democratization in the early 1990s was signifi cantly conditioned by the
fact that, in the context of electoral competition, pro-western Ukrainian nationalists
were at a numerical disadvantage in comparison to profoundly Sovietized, Russifi ed
and “Creolic” political and cultural forces in the Eastern and Southern parts of
the country.
18 The ideological hegemony of nationalism in Ukraine was gradually
strengthened during the 1990s, as the Ukrainian national revival was supported
by incumbents who found it an acceptable solution for legitimizing their own status
as a ruling elite in the independent state.
19 With this came an endorsement of the
fundamental political and ideological content connected to the national discourse,
as well as legitimacy for democracy promotion, cultural exchanges and a variety
of training and education programs for both students and government offi cials.
Young Ukrainians not only grew up in an independent Ukraine and were educated
in the Ukrainian language, but they were also equipped with a different quality of
education, skills, worldview, aspirations and habits of the heart as compared with
their parents and grandparents.
Nationalism was a mixed blessing for prospects for democracy in Georgia, which
experienced a brief and tragic period of homogenizing authoritarian nationalism
under Zviad Gamsakhurdia in 1990 to 1991.
20 Georgia’s pro-western orientation
under Shevardnadze was partly a by-product of the dependency of the entire country
on foreign aid in the aftermath of the civil war, as much as of the government’s
17 Moreover, for most of Milošević’s rule, the opposition tried to challenge his nationalist
credentials rather than the foundations of the regime’s practical ideology, thus, only strengthening
the hegemony advantage of the incumbent.
18 This term is used by Ukrainian academics to identify “Russifi ed” segments of the society
that maintain a political rather than ethnic allegiance to the respective independent states. See
Mykola Ryabchuk, Dvi Ukrainy: realni mezhi, virtualni vijny (Kritika, Kiev, 2003).
19 See Timothy Garton Ash and Timothy Snyder, “The Orange Revolution”, New York Review of
Books, vol. 52, no. 7 (April 28, 2005).
20 According to Charles Fairbanks, “[t]he independence movements that triumphed in both
Georgia and Azerbaijan at the beginning of the 1990s understood themselves as democratic
breakthroughs. Nationalism fueled the early democratic movements and then immensely
complicated their successful institutionalization”; see Charles Fairbanks, “Georgia’s Rose
Revolution”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 15, no. 2 (April 2004), pp. 110-124, quote: 111.

efforts to minimize Russian encroachments on Georgian sovereignty and territorial
integrity. 21 This resulted in policies that furthered space for rhetoric, discourses
and practices favoring the eventual rise of a strong democratic opposition. 22
Shevardnadze’s retreat into authoritarianism in the last years of his rule put him
on a collision course with the democracy promotion community. Remarkably, he
joined Milošević and Lukashenka in evicting the Soros Foundation from Georgia.
Authoritarianism led him to adopt a harder-line rhetoric and, thus, only to destroy
his own credibility, while boosting that of the democratic opposition that advocated
a clear choice in favor of democracy, the rule of law and Europeanization.
Overall, the importance of identity and hegemony emphasizes the cultural dimension
of the observed democratic breakthroughs. But, unlike more traditional arguments
that tend to defi ne countries as “fi t” and “unfi t” for democracy because of cultural
legacies, culture is here not understood in such rigid terms. Indeed, culture may
change in a relatively short period of time to create pre-requisites for democratic
transition. In the case of recent democratic breakthroughs, it was the younger
generations that, unlike their parents and grandparents, grew up in the context of
independent statehood and were exposed to political pluralism, democratic ideas,
western education and free media, that eventually tipped the balance in favor of the
forces of democracy.
Reversing the Tide:
Preemption and the Authoritarian Internationale
In light of these considerations, the recent democratic changes in Eurasia can be
considered to be path dependent. It is important that all recent breakthroughs
happened in polities that already possessed a substantial degree of political and
social pluralism. However, it is noteworthy that most of today’s remaining former
Soviet states do not possess the basic social and political features seen in
competitive authoritarian systems. Authority is usually fi rmly concentrated in the
hands of the president, with representative institutions serving largely as window-
dressing. Centralized control over wealth (particularly natural resources) helps to
maintain a fair degree of social cohesion, because it makes it easier to pursue
redistributive policies. Kazakhstan and Putin’s Russia, as much as Belarus, represent
examples of the effective use of social policies to secure public acceptance of
authoritarian politics. Elites are extensively monitored and purged so as to prevent
2 1 I n G e o r g i a , R u s s i a w a s w i d e l y v i e w e d a s t h e s p o n s o r o f A b k h a z a n d S o u t h O s s e t i a n s e p a r a t i s m
and as a direct threat to the country’s independence.
22 “The Georgian and Azeri elites have been almost unanimous in their desire for a fresh start
in at least outwardly western forms. Accordingly, both countries have multiple parties, media
nominally free of censorship (Georgia even has more than two television networks) and the rest of
the panoply of western institutions”; see Charles Fairbanks, “Georgia’s Rose Revolution”, Journal
of Democracy, vol. 15, no. 2 (April 2004), pp. 110-124, quote: 111, op cit.
Vitali Silitski

the rise of internal opposition and to establish prohibitively high costs for defection
into opposition. Independent media either do not exist or are restricted to the print
media and forced into self-censorship.
In these regimes, political competition, even when it offi cially exists, is hardly
meaningful. Central Asian presidents, in particular, have enjoyed a long tradition of
extending their rule through referenda rather than elections. The political opposition
is either banned (as in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) or faces severe limits to the
available space for genuine competition (as in Russia and especially Belarus).
The most prominent and charismatic opposition leaders may face imprisonment
on trumped-up charges (commonly made just ahead of elections), character
assassination by regime-controlled media or even attempts at outright elimination.
The lack of transparency in the electoral process is a rule that has few exceptions.
In more benign cases, the incumbents reshape the political arena to present
themselves as the most respectable choice out of what is available to voters.
In Tajikistan, for example, an Islamist party is the only visible contender to the
dominant party of President Emmomali Rakhmonov. In Russia, the employment of
administrative and media resources has framed the political arena so as to leave
President Putin and the pro-regime United Russia Party competing in the fi eld
with only the communists and ultra-nationalists, both of which are also de facto
manipulated by the Kremlin.
Furthermore, some of the surviving post-Soviet autocracies lack the versatility or
social structure conducive to democratic change. Central Asian states, in particular,
remain rural and impoverished societies, where an urban-youth social coalition, a
f a c t o r t h a t h a s b e e n s i g n i fi c a n t l y c o n d u cive to democratic breakthroughs elsewhere,
is unlikely to form. Kazakhstan is the exception in this particular instance, but as
an oil-based economy, it has other and specifi c barriers to democratic change. In
Russia, the younger generation favors an authoritarian president as much as, and
e v e n m o r e s o t h a n , t h e r e s t o f s o c i e t y.
23 T h e K r e m l i n u s e s t h i s f a c t t o o r g a n i z e l o y a l i s t
youth groups with the clear goal of crowding out and preventing the emergence of an
opposition youth movement.
Likewise, there are considerable obstacles to formulating political discourses
that would wrench the hegemony advantage away from incumbents. Authoritarian
nationalism in Russia takes the form of an offi cial moral doctrine that denounces
democracy as western treachery and, more recently, as an attempt to spread terror.
23 See, for example, the fi ndings of the Moscow-based VCIOM center, testifying that Putin’s
policies are highly popular with young people. Available online at
24 Remarkably, President Putin, when addressing the nation in the aftermath of the terrorist
attack in Beslan, blamed the country’s lack of security and exposure to terror on the break-up of
the Soviet Union. He also used the tragedy as a justifi cation for the further tightening of his grip
on power by abolishing the direct election of provincial governors.

Lukashenka in Belarus successfully battles democratic- and nationally-minded
opposition by imposing a slightly modifi ed Soviet ideology and symbolism, which
still has broad popular appeal. In Central Asia, the moral base for the opposition is
often provided by Islam, which allows the incumbents, whether rightly or wrongly, to
score legitimacy points by presenting themselves as bulwarks against international
terrorism inside the countries themselves, in Russia and even in the West. Clearly,
such social environments do not favor democratic change.
Preemptive measures come on top of already reinforced authoritarian rule.
Revolutionary contagion carried advance knowledge about the threats facing
incumbents and likely targets to be taken care of before the conditions for regime
change matured suffi ciently at home for revolution to get off the ground. Moreover,
one also has to take into account autocratic contagion, or the “copycat effect”.
This refers to when legislation or practices introduced by the regime in one country
are copied by others and introduced with the aim of preventing the spread of
democratic activism. Not all the attacks against political opponents throughout the
former Soviet Union unleashed in 2005 and 2006 were directly prompted by the
Orange Revolution, as many of these actions can be considered part of “business
as usual” in an autocracy. Nevertheless, many of them were prompted by a sense
of the “anti-revolutionary”.
Moreover, it is obvious that the autocrats across the region employ remarkably
similar strategies to combat democratic contagion.
Removal of political opponents from the political arena
The most notorious examples of the preemptive harassment, arrest and jailing of
political opponents have occurred in Azerbaijan, Belarus and Kazakhstan. A major
opposition party was banned in Kazakhstan in 2005, where new legislation, making
it virtually impossible to establish new political parties (by demanding that they
have 50,000 members before applying for registration), was also passed.
26 Belarus
introduced new legal regulations severely restricting activities of opposition parties
by changing housing regulations so that it has become impossible for local party
chapters to rent premises, leading to the deregistration of more than 300 opposition
party branches nationwide.
Restriction of political competition by changing electoral laws
The new electoral law adopted in Russia in 2005 has raised the threshold for entering
the parliament from fi ve to seven percent, severely impeding the chances of smaller
independent parties not controlled by the Kremlin to enter parliament. Changes
25 See Carl Gershman and Michael Allen, “The Assault on Democracy Assistance”, Journal of
Democracy, vol. 17, no. 2 (July 2006), pp. 36-51, quote: 40.
26 See Kazakhstan report in Nations in Transit 2006. Available at https://
27 See Belarus report in Nations in Transit 2006. Available online at
Vitali Silitski

to the electoral law in Belarus in October 2006 have placed new restrictions on
election observation and opposition campaigning.
Disruption of independent election monitoring
On the eve of its parliamentary elections in February 2005, Moldova expelled scores
of international observers. In February 2006, the Belarusian KGB arrested the
leaders of the largest election monitoring NGO (Partnership) on charges of terrorism
and running an illegal organization, effectively terminating its activity.
Restriction of the activities of independent civil society
and assaults on democracy assistance
The adoption of a new NGO law in Russia in December 2005, signifi cantly impeding
the activity of civil society and restricting its access to funding abroad, was openly
justifi ed by the necessity to prevent a Ukraine-style electoral revolution in Russia.
Even tighter restrictions on NGO activities were introduced in Kazakhstan (under
the guise of anti-terrorism laws) and particularly in Belarus, where the activity of
organizations that have failed to obtain offi cial registration has become punishable
by up to three years in prison. New laws in Belarus also prohibit foreign assistance
to support election monitoring or activities advocating foreign “interference into the
internal affairs of Belarus” (implying, among other things, human rights advocacy).
New regulations in Tajikistan restrict the contact of foreign diplomats and media
with representatives of the domestic NGO sector. Branches of international NGOs
had been forced to close down in Uzbekistan.
Attacks on independent media and Internet censorship
Opposition press almost entirely disappeared from news stands and subscription
catalogues in Belarus just months before the presidential elections in March 2006.
The remaining media outlets affi liated to the anti-Putin opposition in Russia have been
tamed by lawsuits and forced ownership changes. Scores of journalists reporting for
foreign media have been arrested or expelled in Uzbekistan.
30 Censorship of the
Internet has been practiced in several CIS states and discussion of joint efforts for
controlling the Internet emerged at the CIS Summit in December 2005.
Preemption by imitation
Last but not least, surviving authoritarians have learned to combat electoral
revolutions, not only by preemptive strikes against opposition leaders, NGOs,
independent press and electoral observers, but also by deploying henchmen,
surrogates and loyal media. They have learned, for example, how to convince the
public that claims of vote fraud are themselves fraudulent. They have also practiced
28 See Belarus report in Nations in Transit 2006. Available online at
nitransit/2006/belarus2006.pdf, op cit.
29 See Uzbekistan report in Nations in Transit 2006. Available online at https://www.freedomhouse.
30 Ibid.

the bussing-in of loyalists to central squares to stage counter-demonstrations against
post-election protests. 31 They have founded and promoted youth movements with
“anti-revolutionary” agendas and have co-opted artists and singers in the same way as
the democratic revolutionaries have. In brief, they disguise anti-revolutionary activity
by making it look revolutionary. President Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan went
so far as to run a “color-coded” campaign for his re-election in December 2005. A
similar pop-culture approach to combat contagion, although without color-coding,
was taken by Belarus’ Alyaksandr Lukashenka in the run-up to the March 2006
presidential elections.
Preemptive authoritarianism is not a new phenomenon in the region, but recent
developments have brought with them a signifi cant increase in attacks on the
political opposition and civil society. The success of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, in
particular, has demonstrated that the spread of democracy and, by extension, the
replacement of incumbent elites, can happen in the former Soviet Union. It convinced
Eurasian autocrats that even the mere presence of elements of pluralism, such as
independent NGOs and the offi ces of western democracy promotion organizations,
could be a long-term threat.
Preemptive authoritarianism is rapidly gaining an international dimension. The
actions of the Putin government in relation to the revolutionary events in Ukraine
are exemplary of this trend. Russia discharged an unprecedented range of political,
fi nancial and information resources to prevent the victory of the democratic
opposition, with the aim of imposing not only a pro-Russian leader, but also a Russian
(Putin)-style system.
32 In the aftermath of the Orange and Rose Revolutions, the
Kremlin made efforts to undermine the newly democratized states, launching a series
of trade blockades and “gas wars” and demonstratively supporting the opposition.
In the case of Georgia, Russia has long supported separatist groups threatening the
territorial integrity of the country. Economic confl icts were unequivocally presented
to the Russian public as reprisals against regimes that dare to democratize and
attempt to move out of the Russian orbit. Kremlin-controlled media go out of their
way to scare the public with images of gloom and deprivation in post-revolutionary
states, spreading the fear of contagion to society.
31 Several such “drill rallies” were organized in Moscow in 2005 by the pro-Putin youth movement
“Nashi”. Kremlin spin-doctors later confi rmed that these were meant to show the opposition
that its protests could be stopped not just by the police, but also by ostensibly “private” and
“spontaneous” violence.
32 Besides the pre-election visit and de facto campaigning for the pro-regime candidate, Putin
gave his blessing to the vote rigging by twice congratulating Yanukovych on his “victory”. Yury
Luzhkov, Mayor of Moscow, publicly endorsed the secessionist attempts of pro-Yanukovych
Eastern regions; see Jan Maksymiuk, “Analysis: Will Ukraine Split In Wake Of Divisive Ballot?”,
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, November 30, 2004. Top Russian offi cials, including Duma
speaker, Boris Gryzlov, warned against opposition accession to power; see “Compromise in Kiev,
Confrontation Abroad”, The Economist, December 10, 2004. The amount of Russian spending on
the Yanukovych campaign has been estimated as high as US$ 300 million; see Jackson Diehl,
“Putin’s Unchallenged Imperialism”, The Washington Post, October 5, 2004, p. A19.
Vitali Silitski

Although it failed in Ukraine, Russia is fully committed to the protection of its CIS
partners from the spread of democracy. The former head of the Russian security
council and current CIS Executive Secretary, Vladimir Rushailo, explicitly declared
that the “replacement of ruling elites by means of political technologies is a threat
to all CIS states and to Russia in particular”.
33 The electoral observation missions of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) came under Kremlin
attack for “interference” in the Ukrainian elections,
34 and, one year later, in Belarus,
for “instigating mass disorder”. 35 The Kremlin pressed for the OSCE to relinquish
its monitoring activities and even threatened to block the organization’s fi nances
if it failed to do so.
36 Missions of election observers from the CIS countries have
been dispatched to elections across the region in ever growing numbers with the
clear aim of denouncing western and opposition monitoring efforts as falsifi ed or
ideologically motivated.
Nevertheless, Russia appears to be more successful in helping authoritarians
survive than in exporting autocracy to more competitive environments, like Ukraine.
In the run-up to the 2006 presidential elections in Belarus, Russian security forces
duplicated Lukashenka’s propaganda, declaring that plots by western powers to
oust the Belarus strongman had been uncovered. The Russian city of Smolensk
was pressured into refusing to print independent Belarusian press. Furthermore,
the Kremlin has not hesitated to repatriate political opponents of CIS strongmen
who have sought shelter and political asylum on Russian territory.
The growing fi nancial power of this petro-state also means that Russia is capable of
spending more to pursue the anti-revolutionary agenda abroad. In 2005, the Russian
parliament established for the fi rst time its own funding program for “civil society”
groups both in Russia and abroad. In an attempt to clone western democracy
promotion institutions, it engages increasingly in funding media, recruiting politicians
and even in funding political parties in the near abroad.
A further indication of the internationalized dimension of the Authoritarian
Internationale is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, comprising China,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (with observers including
Belarus and Iran). The regional economic and security cooperation group redefi ned
33 “Vladimir Rushailo ispugalsya Gleba Pavlovskogo”, Charter ‘97 News, January 13, 2005.
34 Ronald Eggleston, “OCSE Election Monitoring Criticized by Russia”, RFE/RL Newsline, April
21, 2005. Available online at /featuresarticle/2005/04/f08f6c6a-6848-
36 Vladimir Socor, “Moscow Defying OSCE on Democracy Front”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, November
4, 2004. Available at /edm/article.php?volume_id=401&issue_
37 See Ivan Krastev, “Democracy’s ‘Doubles’”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 17, no. 2 (July 2006),
pp. 56-62, and Carl Gershman and Michael Allen, “The Assault on Democracy Assistance”, Journal
of Democracy, vol. 17, no. 2 (July 2006), pp. 36-51.

itself as an instrument of collective defense against the spread of “unwanted”
political and economic infl uence on the region (also protecting it from foreign
“meddling” on issues of human rights protection),
38 and has adopted its own “anti-
terrorist” policies that, in fact, facilitate the extradition of political opponents from
one member to another.
The Authoritarian Internationale is, thus, not restricted to Russia’s activities in
the CIS or to the CIS itself. China’s communist authorities are concerned, as “the
fall of post-Soviet authoritarian regimes has raised the uncomfortable specter
of a Chinese popular uprising”.
40 In response, the Chinese government tightened
controls on international NGOs, reportedly sent researchers to Eastern Europe to
assess the role of pro-democracy NGOs and to propose counter-measures and have
pressured foreign companies to provide better tools for controlling and monitoring
the Internet.
41 Chinese dissidents directly associate this new crackdown on free
speech with the impact of color-coded revolutions elsewhere. 42
China is also likely to emerge in the near future as a major source of fi nancial
assistance and foreign aid, which can be used by autocratic governments (including
those in the post-Soviet space) to relieve domestic tensions and enforce their
repressive capabilities. Besides China, Venezuela and Iran have enhanced their
presence in the post-Soviet space, using their oil wealth to pursue investments and
purchase weaponry. They have most likely also learned some political lessons from
recent transitions.
Conclusion: What Is Next?
For now, the surviving post-Soviet autocrats seem to be well-entrenched in power,
well-educated, well-organized and well-endowed with resources to protect the
status quo in the region in the foreseeable future. Paradoxical as it may sound, it
is the dynamics and the violent nature of the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (even
though its outcome was by no means democracy), as well as the horrifi c images of
38 “‘Authoritarian Internationale’ Leads Anti-Democratic Backlash”, Democracy Digest, vol. 3,
no. 1 (March 31, 2006); available online at /journals/democracy_digest_
40 Ying Ma, “Democracy Slow Boat to China”, Asia Wall Street Journal, February 15, 2006.
41 The Chinese authorities have reportedly sold their Internet control technology to Belarus; see
“‘Authoritarian Internationale’ Leads Anti-Democratic Backlash”, Democracy Digest, vol. 3, no. 1
(March 31, 2006), op cit. Available online at /journals/democracy_digest_
42 Yongding, “China’s Color-Coded Crackdown”, Foreign Policy, October 18, 2005.
43 A study group similar to one discharged by the Chinese was reportedly organized by the
government of Iran. Author’s communication with Abbas Milani, fellow at the Hoover Institution,
Stanford University.
Vitali Silitski

the slaughter in Andijan, that should be a warning against new complacency among
surviving autocracies in Eurasia. The electoral revolution, after all, is not the only
possible mode of regime change. The restriction of political competition and growing
repression may win incumbents some extra time in power, but may eventually cost
them much more than the electoral revolutions cost their colleagues, one of whom,
Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, not only survived his own downfall, but has already
managed to return to power as a democratically elected leader.
Electoral revolutions were facilitated by political and social environments that
contained a fair amount of openness and pluralism. The dynamics of post-electoral
transitions may well be determined by the absence of these elements of liberty.
Consolidated autocracies still suffer from fundamental fl aws, including the extreme
personalization of power, severity of repression, a tendency to block societal inputs
to the government and, last but not least, a determination of incumbents to cling to
power, indefi nitely. Inevitably, at least some suc h reg ime s will f ac e violent over t hrow,
simply because there will be no other way out for those who want change and once
the pressure for change reaches a critical level.
44 Alternative modes of leadership
change, such as succession crises, do not promise to be smooth and violence-free
either. Only the least personalized and least repressive autocracies are likely to have
a chance of transition in a smooth manner.
The sobering implication of the non-electoral character of possible future transitions
is that, when not underwritten by a strong and organized opposition and civil society,
they are very unlikely to generate democracy. Nevertheless, it is wanton repression
that will eventually cost autocratic leaders their rule, rather than any tricks by the
democracy promotion community or the actions of so-called “terrorists”.
However, active democracy promotion in Eurasia remains something of an uphill
struggle. Its presence and fi nancial resources are increasingly unwelcome in the
region. The knowledge and expertise accumulated as a result of the recent sequence
of successful democratic breakthroughs will be hard to apply to new and more
repressive environments. The scenario of the electoral revolution, a revolutionary
development in itself just a few years ago, is now well-studied by incumbent autocrats
and their security apparatuses. And, while consolidated authoritarianism, bolstered
by preemption, denies the possibility of a peaceful, nonviolent transfer of power,
democracy promotion institutions are hardly fi t (and hardly supposed) to promote
actors and develop strategies that employ violence. Rightly or wrongly, the reality of
who the “opposition” is, particularly in Central Asia, will pose democracy promotion
institutions ethical and other dilemmas about engaging with political Islam.
44 A thorough discussion of how repression by the state can provoke revolutionary movements
can be found in: Jeff Goodwyn, No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945-
1991 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001).

Against this background, new democratic breakthroughs in the former Soviet Union
seem to be a distant prospect. Effective democracy promotion will require not only
the continuation of the involvement of international NGOs in the region, but also
fi rm political commitment and support from western democracies. First, democratic
change badly needs to develop a more positive image among the voting public in the
region, especially as it is routinely presented in surviving autocracies as banditry
or as utterly chaotic. Further, those countries that have recently achieved electoral
c h a n g e c a n n o t b e l e f t t o l a n g u i s h b y t h e i r d e m o c r a t i c n e i g h b o r s . I n s t e a d , d e m o c r a t i c
consolidation needs to be supported and encouraged, as a positive post-revolutionary
experience in these countries may inspire their neighbors in the region.
Secondly, wherever possible, the West must apply systematic political leverage to
ensure at least basic respect for free and fair electoral processes and the autonomy
of civil society and the independent media in the region. The consequences of further
ignoring Russia’s slide into authoritarianism will be catastrophic, given its central
role in organizing collective defense actions against democratic developments in
Eurasia. If even more damaging incidents are to be avoided in the future, it needs
to be made clear to the Kremlin that the benefi ts of engagement with the West
are contingent upon certain conditions. Those should include a greater degree of
political freedom inside the country and more restraint in the provision of support
for the survival of hardliners in the post-Soviet space.
Finally, and regarding the democracy promotion community, it is in urgent need
of signifi cantly updating the focus of its fi eldwork. On the one hand, the expertise
accumulated pre -1989 may be increasingly relevant in relation to current repre s sive
environments, which compare more to repressive state socialism prior to 1989
than to pseudo-democratic post-communism since. Activists need to learn how
to continue their work and spread their message when there are fewer and fewer
legitimate and legal means to do so. Democracy assistance should no longer just be
generous. It must be smart and needs to offer strong intellectual input and practical
support in an effort to put democrats just that little bit ahead of the learning curve
of autocratic rulers.
Democracy assistance has to be continued. The promotion of responsible and civilized
democratic agency is an indispensable investment in the future of the Eurasian states,
especially given the fact that extrication from the current authoritarian condition is
likely to be accompanied by violence and incivility. Only then will the promise held
by recent democratic breakthroughs also come true for those post-Soviet societies
where democracy still seems to be a distant and uncertain prospect.
Vitali Silitski


Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig
After the collapse of communism in 1989, Central and Eastern European countries
embarked on a path of political and social reform that has been full of unpredic t able
diffi culties and unforeseen outcomes. One of the challenges facing several
postcommunist countries was the emergence of neo-authoritarian tendencies
that fi rst halted, and soon started to reverse, reforms towards basic standards of
democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In the countries where this occurred,
including Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, strong and charismatic
leaders began to systemically change young democracies, centralizing power, and
ultimately engaging in the suppression of political opponents and critical voices,
albeit to varying degrees.
Although histories and circumstances of the individual countries differ considerably,
there are a number of striking similarities between how neo-authoritarian regimes
emerged and, more importantly, how they were defeated. Firstly, all fi ve countries
are young states that came into being after the breakup of larger and multi-ethnic
entities (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union). Initially, nation- and
state-building took precedence over democracy-building, a fact easily exploited by
autocrats to justify their authoritarian policies as being in defense of the nation.
Secondly, although considerably authoritarian in nature, these regimes maintained
a number of core democratic institutions and processes, including multiparty
systems, elections and constitutions, and they declared adherence to European
and international standards. Finally, all these countries experienced democratic
breakthroughs that followed very similar patterns, involving broad-based and
concerted civil society efforts around parliamentary or presidential elections that
aimed at ensuring a democratic ballot in process and outcome. These breakthroughs
ultimately resulted in democratically elected (and minded) governments taking
offi ce.
This form of democratization represented a novelty in Central and Eastern Europe.
In 1989, political change occurred (in part) as a result of massive, but largely
unexpected and unplanned, protests. By contrast, more recent democratic changes
coincided with elections, included the conscious mobilization of citizens and were
helped by concerted efforts of organized civil society. The engagement of numerous
nongovernmental organizations, civic initiatives, youth groups and election monitors

has been acknowledged by many as critical, as has the unity and commitment of
pro-democracy political parties, their agreement on political tactics and strategies,
and crucially, on who should lead them. At the same time, this role of civil society
has triggered a variety of criticisms, ranging from undue interference in democratic
politics to the “importation of revolutions” by foreign funding agencies.
This chapter wishes to address aspects of the strategy and resources civil society
involvement in electoral breakthroughs involved in Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Georgia
and Ukraine. It will also try to address some of the common criticism of civil society
in this regard. The chapter begins with a brief look back at the development of civil
society in postcommunist countries since 1989 and continues with a more detailed
overview of the strategic approach taken by civic initiatives in their pre-election
campaigns and activities. This is followed by a discussion of the resources available
to civil society, including foreign funding. Concluding this chapter is a brief overview
of some of the main similarities and differences of civil society engagement in the
context of breakthrough elections in the fi ve countries under consideration.
Civil Society in Postcommunist Countries
since 1989
Civil society organizations play an indispensable role for the vibrancy of democracy.
Among other functions, they sensitize society to pressing domestic and international
issues, build cohesion within communities, help citizens to articulate their beliefs
and interests, exercise control over those holding political power and provide social
services. In the fi ve countries covered here, as well as in Central and Eastern Europe
more broadly, civil society structures were able to develop freely only after 1989, as
communist regimes in the region did not permit voluntary organizations, in the real
sense of the term, to exist and function. Following the collapse of communism, a
massive revival of civic association took place, under the newly gained conditions
of freedom of expression and assembly, of religious belief and practice and of
cooperation with counterparts in the democratic world. This expressed itself in the
proliferation of civic associations, foundations and other forms of nongovernmental
organization and activities witnessed in the region since 1989.
This upsurge in civic initiative and self-organization was accompanied by an
enormous learning process. People in these countries gained new skills, in areas
such as creating and developing sustainable and independent organizations, making
strategic plans and building partnerships, fundraising from domestic and foreign
sources and recruiting volunteers. With the effective achievement of their goals in
1 Comparative information on the development of civil society in Central and Eastern European
countries can be found in the NGO Sustainability Index published by the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID), the annual Nations in Transit report compiled by Freedom
House and the Civil Society Index by Civicus.

mind, civil society organizations started to create coalitions, umbrella organizations
and networks, taking advantage of advances in information and communication
technologies to facilitate their cooperation, within and across borders. With the
emergence of training and resource centers for civil society, a new professional fi eld
opened up, providing civic actors with the opportunity to learn from the example of
local and international counterparts and trainers. Very quickly, thus, civil society
organizations became “schools of democracy” for independent and active citizens,
who associated the new democratic state with the decentralization of power, the rule
of law, the protection of human rights, media freedom and independence and justice.
Through their activities in civil society organizations people learned to appreciate
these values, engage in their strengthening and mobilize in their defense.
An important part of this learning process was interaction with international
partners. Quickly after 1989, an intensive transfer of expertise and resources
between established western and emerging postcommunist democracies began.
In the course of the 1990s, such transfers also developed between more and
less advanced transition countries. Partnerships developed in numerous areas
of civic initiative. Fellowship and scholarship programs provided civic activists
and citizens, more broadly, with the opportunity of learning from the experience
of advanced democracies. Financial support was mobilized on a massive scale
by private foundations and public agencies in Europe and North America, which
provided resources that were not available locally, supporting the full spectrum of
civic activities from humanitarian, social, educational, environmental and cultural
project s to politically more sensitive advocacy activities in fi elds such as human and
minority rights, the fi ght against corruption and monitoring of government agencies
and political actors.
2 Indeed, there has been hardly any democracy assistance
program that did not include civil society as a specifi c target for support.
Civil society, a previously unknown realm of social life, had to generate acceptance
and support for its activities among the citizenry. This was relatively easy in
some areas, such as social welfare, education, leisure and charity, where civic
organizations provided services, or environmental protection and the preservation
of cultural heritage that are hardly controversial. In other fi elds, however, public
acceptance was much harder to achieve. Organizations and activities challenging
public policy, aiming at the control of political and economic power or expressing
critical positions towards government and political actors found it more diffi cult to
establish legitimacy in the eyes of the public and the governing elites. For many, any
such form of advocacy on the part of civil society was unacceptable, as the public
domain was understood as the preserve of state agencies, political parties and, to
some extent, the media. Disagreement reached far into civil society itself, as civic
2 There are few comprehensive studies of democracy assistance. For U.S. support, see Thomas
Carothers, Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve (Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, Washington, DC, 1999); for European assistance, see Richard Youngs (ed.), Survey of
European Democracy Promotion Policies 2000-2006 (FRIDE, Madrid, 2006).
Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig

activists debated the “politicization” of NGOs and their legitimacy to engage in the
public sphere. A typical argument was that those wishing to get involved in politics
should join political parties.
These questions gained in relevance as independent civic organizations found
themselves increasingly at odds with the semi-authoritarian politics of governments
in Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Georgia and Ukraine. Civil society’s capacity to act as
a watch-dog of political power and to mobilize protest against its abuse did not
escape the attention of ruling political elites. Consequently, governments attempted
to silence the civic sector by introducing legislation to limit the space available for
its activities, by curtailing its fi nancial and resource base, by orchestrating scandals
to discredit civil society organizations and activists in the eyes of the public and, in
an attempt to crowd out critics, by providing material and other forms of support to
pro-government organizations. These measures posed a considerable challenge to
civic organizations in the fi ve countries, forcing some to wind up, and pushing others
to withdraw from open engagement in public affairs. At the same time, however,
government hostility had an integrating effect on civil society that was actively
searching for ways to effectively counteract the pressure to which it was subjected.
Civic Action for Democratic Elections:
Key Strategic Features
Towards the end of the 1990s, democratic backsliding and semi-authoritarianism
in the fi ve countries under consideration intensifi ed. Democratic institutions were
manipulated, state apparatuses abused and propaganda increased. Physical
violence was employed against political opponents. Perpetrators did not have to
fear prosecution for violations of the law, as the justice systems were largely under
the control of government. Politics and business became closely intertwined, as
representatives of these regimes and entrepreneurs supporting them were involved
in illegal, often criminal, activities. The interest of incumbent regimes and their
cronies in maintaining power was self-evident.
Ironically, semi-authoritarian leaders and their supporters realized that if they
wanted to maintain their grip on power, they would have to legitimize it through
the electoral process by being seen to win a majority of the votes. In preparing
for elections, these regimes relied on the support they knew they could muster
from some segments of the population, the fear and apathy of others, and ever
increasingly, on their ability to rig elections in their own favor. At the same time,
however, elections were also potentially a moment of regime vulnerability. Even if
not entirely free and fair, limiting political competition or manipulated, elections still
presented an opportunity for pro-democracy forces, including civic groups, to appeal
to the population for support and to contest the legitimacy of governments. And as
the democratic breakthroughs in the fi ve countries would eventually demonstrate,

the regimes were wrong to underestimate their own vulnerability in the context of
elections. Much taken by surprise, the regimes found themselves ousted. Pressure
was exerted by the democratic opposition and the citizens, activated through
nationwide information and mobilization campaigns launched by civil society in the
run-up to elections. Across the fi ve countries, these campaigns had several key
characteristics in common.
Grass-roots activism
Until this most recent series of democratic breakthroughs, there was little tradition
of self-organized citizen action in the electoral process in the countries concerned.
The prevailing wisdom among politicians and the public at large was that citizens
should indeed have the right to vote for their elected representatives, but that it was
the role of the state to organize the electoral process, in which political parties would
have the opportunity to compete for a political mandate. Civil society was faced with
the diffi cult task of challenging and changing this deeply embedded tradition.
At the outset, this involved an important psychological test. Civic activists had to
realize that they could contribute to meaningful political change and that they had
every right to enter the electoral arena and develop independent civic activities to
ensure free access to information and the fairness of the electoral process, even
(or especially) in situations where governing elites openly violated the written and
unwritten rules. Once this key psychological barrier had been overcome, the NGO
community had to develop new communication skills to be able to engage voters,
governmental and political institutions, media and donor agencies, for all of whom
the experience was rather new. In each of the countries considered in this book,
it was a small group of NGOs active in the areas of civic education, human rights,
policy analysis and advocacy that started this process, which eventually snowballed
to involve many different kinds of civil society groups from a wide variety of fi elds.
Civil society representatives realized that they would only be able to have an impact
on the course of the elections if they developed comprehensive nationwide efforts to
mobilize and inform voters and to monitor the electoral process. These civic efforts
typically consisted of one or several national mobilization-information campaigns
(for example, OK ‘98 and “Rock the Vote” in Slovakia, GLAS 99 in Croatia, IZLAZ
2000 and OTPOR in Serbia, KMARA in Georgia, PORA and Znayu [I know] in Ukraine)
and numerous local, issue based, projects, which targeted specifi c age or interest
groups. The core assumption of these campaigns, and of individual campaign
projects, was that properly informed voters would make the right choice, in favor of
democracy and against authoritarianism.
Information was provided in a variety of ways. Humor was used to break down the
fear of getting involved in anything political that gripped large segments of society,
and with great success, as these civic campaigns attracted numerous volunteers,
especially young people, who distributed campaign materials, organized concerts and
Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig

meetings with voters, and other public activities. Creative imagery was developed,
including logos, symbols and slogans that provided for clear campaign identities.
It was especially important that these campaigns be understood as distinct from
those of political parties. Hence, rather than using portraits of politicians, typical for
par t y-political campaigns, they used images of the citizen, clocks with the dial set at
fi ve minutes to midnight, open hands or defi ant fi sts, slogans emphasizing change
and the importance of the individual vote in elections. The creativity, professionalism
and impact of these civic campaigns often surpassed the pre-election efforts of
well-established political parties.
A small group of highly specialized NGOs carried out monitoring projects, assessing
government performance, voting procedures and media coverage of the elections
and the candidates. Important examples of such domestic monitoring NGOs
were Občianske oko (Civic Eye) in Slovakia, GONG (Citizens Organized to Monitor
Elections) in Croatia, CeSID (the Center for Free Elections and Democracy) in Serbia,
the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy in Georgia and the
Committee of Ukrainian Voters.
3 Closely related were media monitoring projects,
such as the qualitative and quantitative media analyses carried out by MEMO ‘98,
fi rst in Slovakia and later in other countries of the region. These monitoring activities
usually attracted a lot of media attention, both domestically and internationally,
and the results were often included in the fi nal reports of international election
monitoring agencies, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE).
One striking characteristic of governance in the civic campaigns under consideration
is that they managed to achieve a high degree of cooperation and effi ciency, despite
the fact that they were run by nonhierarchical, decentralized and mostly small-scale
entities without much previous experience of election-related activities. The large
national campaigns established ad hoc coordination groups, which developed
links with local branches or cooperating voluntary organizations. Special attention
was paid to building networks among independent projects in order to minimize
duplication and achieve synergy. Activists organizing projects within the campaigns
had to overcome many logistical and organizational obstacles, including occasional
tensions between various groups involved over tactics, strategies and even issues
of public prestige. In Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, additional diffi culties arose
when governments started to attack activists and declare their activities illegal.
Underground techniques had to be developed, mastered by youth groups like
The aim of a political party’s pre-election campaign is to mobilize the largest number
of voters possible to vote for their candidates, thereby, ensuring they get into power.
3 In 2001, these and further groups founded the European Network of Election Monitoring
Organizations (ENEMO).

To ensure that this key democratic political process takes place in accordance with
the constitution and the appropriate legislation on elections, state institutions are
charged with organizational arrangements for elections. Political parties use their
members, professional agencies and volunteer supporters to help them inform the
voting public about the programs and profi les of their candidates.
A key feature of the pre-election civic campaigns covered by the cases in this
book is that they were developed independently of the competing political parties.
These campaigns were activities carried out voluntarily by NGOs and civic groups in
order to help citizens to better understand their rights, provide them with objective
information about the elections and make sure that state institutions fulfi lled their
obligation to ensure that candidates would compete according to democratic rules.
They did not aim to garner support for any particular political leader. The election
materials they developed and distributed, and the activities they organized, were
clearly distinct from those prepared by the political parties.
At the same time, and despite their emphasis on independence from any particular
political party, these campaigns naturally infl uenced the political space, by contesting
the authority and legitimacy of the incumbent and non-democratic regimes, which
tried to monopolize the public sphere. Hence, these campaigns were, inevitably,
anti-incumbent in character, stressing as they did the necessity of change and
demanding good governance. It was also a key assumption of each of these
campaigns that the higher the voter turnout, the better the chances for democratic
candidates and parties to do well in the elections. All analyses pointed to the fact
that key democratically-minded constituencies and a large number of fi rst-time
voters (educated, young, city dwellers) would not turn up at the polls without special
efforts to mobilize them.
Under normal circumstances, such civic initiatives would not have been needed. In
many ways, these campaigns responded to and compensated for the defi ciencies of
demo c r ac y in t he c ount r ie s under c o n s i der at io n, su c h a s an almo s t c o mp l e te l ac k o f
objective information provided by free and independent media, the marginalization
and even suppression of the political opposition, the absence of an independent
judiciary and the clear partiality of the public service. In the absence of these
democratic checks and balances, an alternative mechanism had to be found to
ensure fair competition between political rivals and independent oversight over the
political process.
Nevertheless, and despite their nonpartisan identity, these pre-election civic
efforts had to be coordinated, at least for some very practical purposes, with the
democratic oppositions. For example, when civic activists organized meetings with
voters in various localities around the country, they needed to know if party rallies
had been scheduled for that place and time. In addition, and in one crucial respect,
the civic and political actors had one important goal in common, that of abolishing
Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig

semi-authoritarian rule in their country. In the case of Slovakia, for example, the
creation of a “democratic round table”, consisting of elements of the democratic
opposition, trade unions and NGOs, proved to be an effective means of coordinating
those common steps that were necessary. The huge protest movements that rallied
in the aftermath of rigged elections in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine are also excellent
examples of effective coordination between political and civic actors.
An important characteristic of the planning and implementation of these civic
campaigns was their strict adherence to the principle of nonviolence, even though
there was no guarantee that semi-authoritarian regimes, once challenged by
civic campaigns, would act with restraint and refrain from harassment, scandal-
mongering, and even, outright brutality against civic activists and ordinary citizens.
For the campaigns, respect for the rule of law and ethical behavior were crucial and
activists received training in how to avoid confrontation and how to behave during a
police interrogation. They associated themselves with the long history of nonviolent
political struggle, inspired by those led by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King
and drew parallels with the peaceful dismantling of communism in 1989. Youth
groups in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, in particular, were inspired (and instructed)
by practical manuals for nonviolent action, such as Gene Sharp’s “From Dictatorship
to Democracy”.
In addition, civic activists were careful to consult with think tanks, policy analysts,
media specialists and legal experts on human rights issues. Where necessary, such
NGOs provided legal and human rights support to activists imprisoned or indicted
for their involvement in the campaigns. Human rights violations of various kinds
and attacks on civic activism were carefully monitored and publicized through
independent media, Internet and other channels, to both domestic and international
communities. The fact that semi-authoritarian regimes would resort to using force
against their own citizens played a signifi cant role in discrediting them in the eyes of
their own citizens and the international community.
Adherence to the principle of nonviolence was especially important during the mass
protests that took place after the election fraud in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine,
during which the atmosphere often grew extremely tense. State security forces
were deployed in large numbers to face down protesting citizens and there was
always the risk that standoffs would turn ugly. In these situations, the sophistication
and courage of the activists was remarkable and contributed to the fact that these
democratic changes happened without a single casualty.
4 In order to be more easily and broadly accessible to local activists, this book was widely
translated into languages such as Serbian, Ukrainian and Russian.

Youth participation
In the democratic breakthroughs considered here, young people from 18 to 25
years of age played a special role, both as voters (many of them, fi rst-timers) and
as a highly engaged group demanding change, testament to which is that a chapter
of this book is dedicated specifi cally to their participation. Some key items in this
respect, nevertheless, are worth re-iterating.
The competing political parties, as well as the organizers of the civic campaigns,
paid special attention to this age group. Young people are often thought to be less
interested in the formal institutions and processes of democracy, such as political
parties and elections. At the same time, they are often very sensitive to broader
social and political questions, open to new approaches and interested in non-
conventional, spontaneous and action-oriented forms of participation. Hence, they
are a typical constituency supporting change in society. Public opinion research
indicated that young people in the fi ve countries could provide a strong support
base for democratic forces, if only they could be mobilized to cast their vote, as well
as to inspire other and older voters. If, eventually, very high voter turnout marked
the elections in Slovakia (84 percent), Croatia (75 percent), Serbia (71 percent) and
Ukraine (77 percent), this was not least due to the engagement of young people.
Moreover, young people were the central carriers and target group of several
specialized and highly visible, election-related campaigns, including “Rock the Vote”
in Slovakia, GLAS 99 in Croatia, OTPOR in Serbia, KMARA in Georgia and PORA (both
yellow and black) in Ukraine. Large scale youth campaigns were especially effective
in overcoming the fear of voters to get involved. They attracted young volunteers in
high numbers, with a unique mix of creativity, positive attitudes, courage and action,
and their logos and slogans became domestic brand names. Youth activists reached
out to practically every corner of their countries, and made good use of modern
information and communication technologies to extend their reach geographically
and in terms of publics. For many young people, the civic campaigns around the
elections were the moment that politics became “cool”.
To an extent, though, youth groups departed from the principle of nonpartisanship.
In more or less subtle ways, these groups named, blamed, shamed and poked
fun at autocratic leaders and their abusive practices, through the production and
massive distribution of leafl ets, stickers, graffi ti and other youth friendly materials.
The Serbian campaign slogan “Gotov je” or “He’s fi nished”, developed and massively
displayed by OTPOR activists, is an excellent example of the kind of approach taken.
These campaigns were highly provocative to the regime and had a high impact on
the public. Such approaches have been adopted as part of the standard practice
Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig

of nonviolent resistance since, and they have infl uenced youth groups in Georgia,
Ukraine and elsewhere. 5
The role of young people in pressing for democratic change has been much
appreciated, as is illustrated by a letter to PORA activists from the leader of the
Orange Revolution and Viktor Yushchenko, who subsequently became the president
of Ukraine: “I greet the young generation of citizens who, in diffi cult times, rose up
for freedom and democracy in their country. I am proud of your courage, honor and
your faith in your own strength to struggle and win. I saw the PORA fl ag among the
others every day. This gave me and the resurgent people strength and confi dence.
During those days everyone knew that wherever PORA was there would be success
and victory”.
Pro-democratic and pro-European orientation
In postcommunist countries, where citizens lack long-term experience with
democratic political culture, populist politics found particularly fertile ground. Neo-
authoritarian leaders supported democracy and the longer-term goal of European
integration declaratively, at the same time as stressing the unique features of the
domestic situation that set their countries apart from mature and stable European
states and that continued to require “special measures”. Using state media and
a panoply of tried and tested propaganda approaches, such regimes effectively
indoctrinated large segments of their own populations. Many people stopped
believing that real change was possible, so disappointed were they that the promises
made by the politicians during early efforts at democratization in the 1990s were
not kept. Others were simply silenced by the regime, losing their livelihoods and
positions for speaking out. Any criticism of the leadership or domestic opposition
was interpreted as an attack on the nation and state. And, any criticism from foreign
democratic governments or international organizations was rejected as ignorant
of the domestic situation, as a threat or as interference. In such a situation, the
possibilities for pro-democratic and pro-European political oppositions to get a fair
chance at competing with the regime were extremely limited.
The emergence of the pre-election civic campaigns brought to the public sphere a
new discourse, and with it the makings of a new political culture, by pointing especially
to the central importance of citizens, their power and free will to choose the future
course of their countries’ development. The emergence of a voting citizenry that was
well-informed, educated and not afraid became the key aim of all civic initiatives.
Naturally, this shift was felt by the regimes as threatening, based as they were on
5 In follow-up to the events in Serbia and as testimony to the clear expertise developed by
OTPOR in this domain, an international network of trainers and consultants working in the fi eld of
nonviolent resistance called the Center for Applied Non Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS)
was founded in Belgrade.
6 This letter addressed the participants of the closing ceremony of PORA in Kyiv on January 29,

the primacy and impunity of the strong leader and their national-populist discourses.
And while governments were prepared for neutralizing political opponents through
ersatz electoral competitions, they were not in the least prepared to face up to self-
organized citizens demanding information, accountability, fairness, their right to
choose their leaders and international oversight of the electoral process.
Throughout these campaigns a new form of patriotism, based on proud, active,
citizenship, rather than the aggressive populist nationalism of the regimes emerged.
Civic activists used the state fl ag and symbols, reclaiming them as positive and
progressive images, as part of the symbolism of their campaigns. In stressing their
desire to “return to Europe”, these campaigns made the explicit link between the
international isolation (even pariah status) of their countries and the policies of
the incumbent regimes. This mobilized large segments of the population and when
the breakthrough fi nally took place, it was felt not only to have been a victory for
democratic political actors, but also as a victory of active citizens ready to engage
as members of the wider democratic and European community.
The Resource Base of Civic Campaigns:
NGOs, Volunteers, Media, Funding
These strategic features of civil society involvement refl ect the genuine and
homegrown character of recent electoral breakthroughs in Central and Eastern
Europe. This is mirrored in the resource bases of these civic campaigns, which
consisted of several major elements.
Firstly, civic campaigns emerged as joint efforts of existing civil society structures
in the fi ve countries. This cooperation was usually the result of a longer-term
learning process, which led civic activists and organizations to the realization that
the overarching goal to democratize their countries required concerted action,
notwithstanding the pluralism of groups and views that are so characteristic of civil
society. In some countries, these campaigns also developed from earlier experiences
of NGO coalition building, as in the case of the Tretí sektor SOS (Third Sector SOS)
campaign in Slovakia in 1996, the anti-war coalitions of NGOs in Croatia and Serbia
or of the All Ukrainian Public Resistance Committee Za Pravdu! (For Truth) in 2000
and 2001. Important lessons from those earlier efforts included, for example, the
implementation of principles of nonhierarchical and de-centralized coordination,
a commitment to the far-reaching independence of participating NGOs and the
creation of lean, but nevertheless, centralized coordination bodies.
7 An interesting example of the nonhierarchical and decentralized nature of the campaigns is that
they avoided using the term “leaders”, using instead terms such as spokesperson or representative.
In the egalitarian community of NGOs, this had important psychological implications.
Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig

On this basis, civic campaigns were eventually successful in attracting large
networks of NGOs. As reported in the case studies, the OK ‘98 campaign consisted
of 58 independent projects run by NGOs, while GLAS 99 in Croatia saw 35 civic
groups unite in the Civic Coalition for Free and Fair Elections. Serbia’s IZLAZ 2000
and Ukraine’s PORA campaigns brought together more than 150 NGOs each. This
provided these campaigns with country-wide infrastructure and reach, a strong
presence in local communities, contacts on regional and local levels, knowledge
of specifi c target groups and organizational capacities, such as offi ce support,
members and volunteers.
In contributing these organizational resources, individual NGOs were largely
autonomous, bound only by very broad campaign parameters, including overall
aims, key messages and imagery, which resulted from broad-based discussions
among civil society representatives and participating organizations. In turn, the
central coordinating bodies that were established for the campaigns focused on
a few crucial functions, including the outreach of campaigns to media, donors and
political actors.
This genuine grass-roots nature of civic pre-election campaigns is also refl ected in
their strong volunteer base, a second important resource. Although it is impossible
to assess the scale of volunteer involvement precisely, estimates put volunteering
within the Serbian IZLAZ 2000 campaign at over 25,000 people, while Ukraine’s
PORA is said to have benefi ted from the support of some 35,000 people. Youth
groups, too, operated with larger numbers of volunteers. OTPOR in Serbia is
estimated to have involved 20,000 activists and Georgia’s KMARA is estimated to
have mobilized some 3,000 activists.
These are remarkable fi gures for countries that many observers characterized as
beset by apathy, a lack of interest in public affairs and widespread fear of regime
retribution. Instead, these fi gures indicate the growing levels of dissatisfaction
among citizens with the political and social situation in their countries and their
increasing willingness to engage for change, especially among younger, urban and
more educated segments. Thus motivated, volunteers became the central resource
for civic campaigns, critical for their considerable scale and success in all stages,
from the wide distribution of information materials and outreach to citizens to
comprehensive election monitoring and mass mobilization during the elections.
A third critical resource for the civic campaigns was cooperation with and support
from independent media. Although governments in the fi ve countries had assumed
control over most media, several radio and TV broadcasters managed to retain their
independence. These included TV Markíza and Radio Tw i s t in Slovakia, the radio
station B92 in Serbia, Rustavi 2 television in Georgia, and in Ukraine, TV Channel
5 and the Era radio station, in addition to a variety of print media and internet
platforms in each of the countries.

Through these independent media, civic campaigns gained access to a mass
audience. They ensured regular and objective reporting about the campaigns,
important especially at times when state-controlled media launched attacks to
discredit civil society groups. Some media participated directly in election-related
projects, as in Slovakia, where TV and radio stations broadcast messages calling on
citizens to cast their vote, while Rustavi 2 in Georgia co-sponsored an exit poll that
provided evidence of electoral fraud.
Lastly, fi nancial support for individual campaign projects and the underlying
organizational infrastructure involved in their implementation was important.
Although NGOs participating in civic campaigns contributed considerable resources
and while volunteers added important capacity, many costs could only be covered
through direct funding. Since semi-authoritarian governments in the fi ve countries
made every effort to deprive civil society of domestic resources, fi nancial support
for the election-related activities of civic organizations had to come from foreign
In Slovakia, the OK ‘98 campaign is reported to have received US$ 857,000 in
fi nancial support from foreign funders cooperating within the Donors’ Forum, an
association of Slovak, European and American foundations, including the British
Know How Fund, the Carpathian Foundation, Civil Society Development Foundation
(operating with EU Phare funding), the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the
Children of Slovakia Foundation, the Dutch Embassy, the Foundation for a Civil
Society, the Fund of Canada, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the
Jan Hus Educational Foundation, the Open Society Foundation and the United States
Information Service.
The GLAS 99 campaign in Croatia had two main funders, the United States Agency
for International Development (USAID) and the Open Society Institute (OSI).
Additional resources came from the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom
House and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in the United States, from the
European Commission, the British Know-How Fund, the Westminster Foundation for
Democracy, and a variety of western embassies.
Serbia’s IZLAZ 2000 adopted the Slovak model of a Donors’ Forum, which was
composed of the Canadian International Development Agency, the Fund for an Open
Society, the Know How Fund of Great Britain, the Dutch and Swiss Embassies in
Belgrade, the German interest section in Belgrade and the German Marshall Fund
of the United States.
Much smaller amounts of foreign funding were received by KMARA in Georgia and
PORA in Ukraine. KMARA reports funds received totaling US$ 175,000 and largely
provided by the Open Society Foundation. PORA reports foreign funding totaling
Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig

U S $ 130,0 0 0, provide d by Fre e dom Hou s e, the G erman M ar shall Fund of the Uni te d
States, and the Canadian International Development Agency. 8
These funding levels and partners represent those that provided funding directly
to the fi ve exemplary civic campaigns documented in this book. Other groups and
campaigns, such as OTPOR in Serbia or Znayu in Ukraine, and a broad range of
individual election-related projects and civic organizations in the fi ve countries are
likely to have received further fi nancial support from assistance agencies in Europe
and the United States.
Nonetheless, these funding levels remain relatively modest and hint at the comparably
minor role played by foreign fi nancial support for the emergence and success of civic
campaigns aimed at democratic electoral change in Central and Eastern Europe.
Contrary to widespread suspicions of “revolutions imported by foreign agencies”,
democratic change and the civic campaigns that contributed to them were largely
homegrown developments that relied fi rst and foremost on impulses and resources
from within, in particular individuals, civic groups and society at large.
Adapting and Transferring Civic Campaigns
Many of the strategies, techniques and resources employed by civic campaigns
were relevant for all fi ve countries covered by this book, and key elements of these,
such as civic advocacy, electoral information and communication, monitoring and
mobilization of protest, have been applied in other parts of the world before and
9 This should not, however, lead observers to the conclusion that some form
of tool box or recipe book exists for ousting semi-authoritarian regimes through
electoral change. As was the case for the ouster of communism in Central and Eastern
Europe at the end of the 1980s, these more recent democratic breakthroughs, and
the civic campaigns that helped to bring them about, were conditioned by a set of
political, social, economic and psychological conditions that were particular to each
society. It was to these more specifi c circumstances of postcommunism, and of
each individual country, that civic activists had to tailor their civic campaigns.
In so doing, they benefi ted from signifi cant intra-regional learning processes. Civic
activists from Bulgaria and Romania inspired their Slovak colleagues who, with
8 Foreign funding represented a fraction of the expenses of the PORA campaign, which reports
total expenditures of over US$ 6.5 million, of which US$ 1.56 million were received in direct
fi nancial support largely from local sources, while the remainder was contributed in kind; see Pavol
Demes and Joerg Forbrig, “Pora – ‘It’s Time’ for Democracy in Ukraine,” in: Aslund, Anders, and
Michael McFaul (eds.), Revolution in Orange: the Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough
(Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, 2006), pp. 85-101.
9 See for example, National Democratic Institute, How Domestic Organizations Monitor
Elections. An A to Z Guide (National Democratic Institute, Washington, DC, 1995), and Robert
Norris and Patrick Merloe, Media Monitoring to Promote Democratic Elections (National
Democratic Institute, Washington, DC, 2002).

OK ‘98, pioneered large-scale civic pre-election campaigns and went on to train and
support activists in other countries in the region and beyond, as did OTPOR veterans
in Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere, later.
In so transferring experiences, adaptations to the specifi c circumstances of each
country were necessary. Slovakia, for example, clearly had the most favorable political
and social conditions, and the most advantageous international environment, of
the fi ve countries examined in this book. With its comparably well-developed NGO
community, a relatively liberal environment for political opposition and media, and
close proximity to the West, it was comparably easier than in other countries to
develop and successfully conduct civic campaigns.
By contrast, NGO leaders in Croatia and Serbia operated in a post-confl ict situation.
The Yugoslav wars had devastated the land as well as the minds of people. The
incumbent regimes had only recently demonstrated their propensity to violence.
As one Serbian democrat put it “Mečiar was Mother Teresa in comparison to
Milošević”. It required special courage, moral strength and commitment to the
ethics of nonviolence, in addition to great effort, to introduce civic activism in this
context. Campaigns like GLAS 99 and IZLAZ 2000 changed the political culture of
their countries, as did OTPOR, with its very particular brand of nonviolent protest
that played such an impor tant role in ousting autocrat s in Serbia and, subsequently,
in other parts of the region and the world.
Georgia’s KMARA benefi ted from previous experiences in Slovakia, Croatia and
Serbia, but introduced election-related civic activism to the very different post-
Soviet environment, additionally complicated by the legacy of a civil war, where
regime change was always associated with violence and bloodshed. Young activists
were able to overcome social apathy and made a special contribution to the Rose
Revolution, sending political shockwaves across the post-Soviet space, signaling
hope to hesitant democrats and issuing a warning to self-confi dent autocrats.
These signals were also received in Ukraine, vast in comparison with the four
countries that had already experienced electoral change. Benefi ting from these
prior experiences, but adjusting them to Ukrainian conditions, the civic campaign
developed prior to the 2004 presidential elections was the largest and most complex
of all previous civil society efforts, and indispensable for the success of the Orange
Revolution. The Ukrainian campaign not only brought about an unprecedented
mobilization of citizens, engraved on the public memory in the image of the vast tent
camp in downtown Kyiv, but was also based largely on resources generated locally.
In short, the specifi c political and social conditions in a given country, and the ability
of civic leaders to adapt techniques successfully employed elsewhere accordingly,
are as important as their skill in mustering the necessary resources for civic
Pavol Demeš and Joerg Forbrig

The democratic breakthroughs, marked by the electoral victories of pro-democracy
candidates in the fi ve countries, were more or less uniformly met with euphoria
and enormous, although very often unrealistic, expectations of speedy progress on
reform. Once the revolutionary enthusiasm subsided, however, political leaders and
ordinary citizens faced the task of adjusting to the new reality, as did civic leaders
now that their campaigns had been completed successfully.
In the aftermath of democratic changes, many civic leaders were asked to join new
national or local governments in varying positions of authority and infl uence. Some
of the most infl uential youth activists believed that they could simply transform their
campaigns into viable political parties. As both OTPOR and PORA activists had to
learn, however, successful civic activism does not necessarily translate into equal
success in the formal political arena.
Others chose to remain involved with civil society but they, too, had to re-evaluate
their role in public life. If prior to democratic change, reality often presented itself
in simple “black and white” terms, with the goal clearly defi ned and supporters and
opponents clearly distinguishable, the situation became much more nuanced and
complex under the new democratic conditions. For many, this has turned into a
veritable test of their commitment to democratic ideals and of their ongoing resolve
to press for reform.
Yet, whatever the diffi culties encountered on the further road to democracy, one
fundamental change has taken place in all fi ve countries and that concerns the role
of citizens in society. Citizens discovered the power they can have, and politicians
were forced to accept that citizens have the right to, and are capable of, shaping
the democratic process through their initiative and through independent civic
organizations. Across these countries, it has become a natural ambition of civil
society and the free media to closely monitor the performance of political leaders
and public offi cials, locally and nationally. This continuing role of citizens and their
organizations for the political modernization of their countries is the most important
legacy of recent electoral breakthroughs to democracy.

Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik 1
Young people, particularly those with higher education, are often the segment of
the population most threatening to the status quo of political regimes, whether
these are democratic, authoritarian or somewhere in between. Youth protests in
the United States and what was known as Western Europe in the late 1960s had
their parallel in the role of students in the effort to create “Socialism with a Human
Face”, called the Prague Spring, in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Young people played
a large role in the new social movements that developed in Western Europe in the
1970s and 1980s, including the Greens, women’s liberation, gay and lesbian and
anti-nuclear movements.
2 They also participated in large numbers in the mass
protests and demonstrations that helped to bring down communist regimes in a
number of countries of Central and Eastern Europe, in the demonstrations in the
Baltic States and in the development of national movements that preceded the
breakup of the USSR in 1991.
3 Indeed, young people in Slovenia, beginning in the
late 1980s, played a critical role in challenging not just communism in Yugoslavia,
but also the Yugoslav state, especially with respect to the power of the military. Their
challenge, moreover, generated confl icts between the Slovenian and Serbian party
leaderships. The Slovenian party eventually sided with the rebellious young people
The authors would like to thank the International Center for Non-Violent Confl ict, the Smith
Richardson Foundation, the Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Institute for the Social
Sciences at Cornell University and the Institute for European, Eurasian and Russian Studies at
George Washington University for their support of the project in which the research for this piece
took place. The authors would also like to express their gratitude to Vlad Micic, Sara Rzyeva,
Nancy Meyers and Melissa Aten for the research assistance they provided.
2 See Herbert P. Kitschelt, The Transformation of European Social Democracy (Cambridge
University Press, New York, 1994); Joerg Forbrig (ed.), Revisiting Youth Political Participation
(Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg, 2005); and Nils R. Muiznieks, “The Infl uence of the
Baltic Popular Movements on the Process of Soviet Disintegration”, Europe-Asia Studies, vol. 47,
no. 1 (1995), pp. 3-25.
3 For the role of young people in these various cases, see Mark R. Beissinger, Nationalist
Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State (Cambridge University Press, New York, 2002);
Christian Joppke, East German Dissidents and the Revolution of 1989: Social Movements in a
Leninist Regime (New York University Press, New York, 1995); Tomaz Mastinak, “From Social
Movements to National Sovereignty”, in: Jill Benderly and Evan Kraft, (eds.), Independent
Slovenia: Origins, Movements, Prospects (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1994), pp. 93-112; John
Glenn, III, Framing Democracy: Civil Society and Civic Movements in Eastern Europe (Stanford
University Press, Stanford, 2001); and Padraic Kenney, A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe
1989 (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2002).

and embraced, fi rst, their liberal political agenda and then, very soon thereafter, the
struggle for an independent, as well as democratic, Slovenia.
In many of the new democracies that emerged in the postcommunist region,
however, the political role of young people decreased rather abruptly after the
end of communism. Thus, despite the fact that young people’s attitudes towards
the effort to recreate democratic polities and market economies and to return to
Europe were generally more favorable than those of older citizens,
4 most rather
quickly returned to their studies or professions after the fi rst free elections. Others
took advantage of the many new opportunities to increase their qualifi cations by
studying abroad, entered training programs in private businesses, took entry-level
jobs with multinational fi rms that opened branches in the region or started their own
businesses. Still others became active as leaders in the burgeoning nongovernmental
sector. Thus, only a minority of those who were active took up politics as a vocation,
running for parliament or working for the emerging political parties. Efforts by
former student leaders to call their elders to account, as in the “Thank You, Now
Go” campaign that marked the tenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Prague,
were typically short-lived. After the novelty of the early competitive elections, in fact,
young people were generally less likely to vote than older people, a pattern that, it
should be added, is common in western liberal democracies.
The main exceptions to this pattern of decreased political activity occurred in
those countries in which early efforts to create democratic polities stalled or
were temporarily derailed (Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania) or those in which semi-
or competitive authoritarian regimes replaced communist leaderships, only to
be toppled in turn by citizens’ campaigns organized around elections, commonly
referred to as electoral revolutions (Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia). As will be shown,
young people played important roles as actors in and objects of these campaigns.
Although the forms their activism took, their relationship to the “older” opposition
in both political parties and the NGO sector and their importance to the success
of the campaigns differed, young people contributed to each of the democratizing
elections analyzed in this volume.
As these authors have argued on previous occasions, both the development of
the electoral model of change and the events that led to the replacement of semi-
authoritarian leaders by the opposition or a democratic opening were infl uenced
4 Samuel H. Barnes and János Simon (eds.), The Postcommunist Citizen (Erasmus Foundation
and Institute for Political Science, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, 1998) and Ulrich
Beck, Democracy without Enemies (Polity Press, Cambridge, 1998).
5 See Rafael López Pintor and Maria Gratschew, Voter Turnout Since 1945: A Global Report
(International IDEA, Stockholm, 2002); Richard Rose, “Public Opinion in New Democracies: Where
are Postcommunist Countries Going?”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 8, no. 3 (July 1997), pp. 92-108;
and Krzysztof Jasiewicz, “Sustainable Democracy in Post-Communist Europe: Public Attitudes
and Elite Actions”, Soviet and Post-Soviet Review, vol. 26, no. 1 (1999). See also the World Values
Survey series, available at

in important ways by developments in other societies that had undergone similar
processes of change. 6 Thus, as the other essays in this volume and earlier works
by these authors indicate, the strategies and tactics for using mass mobilization of
citizens in the context of an election campaign, together with unity of the political
opposition, to oust semi-autocratic leaders, were tried out in the Romanian and
Bulgarian elections of 1996 and 1997 and fi rst fully articulated in the postcommunist
world in the OK ‘98 campaign in Slovakia that ousted Vladimír Mečiar in 1998.
The model was next used in Croatia and Serbia in 2000,
7 Georgia in 2003 8 and
Ukraine in 2004, 9 as well as Kyrgyzstan in 2005. 10 This process of diffusion, which
was facilitated by a number of features that postcommunist countries in this region
share, including a highly educated population, a legacy of noninvolvement of the
military in politics and a common set of problems created by the previous system,
also involved the direct transfer of knowledge and experience by “graduates” of
earlier cases who shared their perspectives and who helped to train and advise
activists in the later ones.
Diffusion of strategies and techniques was also evident in the actions of young
people. Supported in many cases by funds provided by outside actors as well as by
their own governments, young activists of the Slovak OK ‘98 campaign infl uenced
developments among young people in Croatia and Serbia. OTPOR, the youth group
that played a critical role in ousting Slobodan Milošević in Serbia, in turn played a
particularly important role in carrying information about strategies and techniques
to yo ung p e o p l e in o t h e r c a s e s , like K M A R A in G e o r g i a an d P O R A in U k r ain e.
12 Young
activists also provided real life object lessons, through their own experiences and
6 See Bunce, Valerie J., and Sharon L. Wolchik, “Favorable Conditions and Electoral Revolutions”,
Journal of Democracy, vol. 17, no. 4 (October 2006), pp. 5-18; Bunce, Valerie J., and Sharon
L. Wolchik, “International Diffusion and Postcommunist Electoral Revolutions”, Communist and
Post-Communist Studies, vol. 39, no. 3 (September 2006), pp. 283-304.
7 Sarah Birch, “The 2000 Elections in Yugoslavia: The ‘Bulldozer’ Revolution”, Electoral Studies,
vol. 21, no. 3 (September 2002), pp. 499-511; Florian Bieber, “The Serbian Transition and Civil
Society: Roots of the Delayed Transition in Serbia”, International Journal of Politics, Culture and
Society, vol. 17, no. 1 (Fall 2003), pp. 73-90.
8 Zurab Karumidze and James V. Wertsch (eds.), Enough: The Rose Revolution in the Republic
of Georgia 2003 (Nova Science Publications, New York, 2005); Jonathan Wheatley, Georgia from
National Awakening to Rose Revolution: Delayed Transition in the Former Soviet Union (Ashgate,
New York, 2005).
9 Lucan Way, “Ukraine’s Orange Revolution: Kuchma’s Failed Authoritarianism”, Journal of
Democracy vol. 16, no. 2 (April 2005), pp. 131-145; Taras Kuzio, “From Kuchma to Yushchenko:
Ukraine’s 2004 Elections and ‘Orange Revolution’”, Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 52, no. 2
(March-April 2005), pp. 29-44.
10 Erica Marat, The Tulip Revolution. Kyrgyzstan One Year After (The Jamestown Foundation,
Washington, DC, 2006).
11 See Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L Wolchik, “Favorable Conditions and Electoral Revolutions”,
Journal of Democracy, vol. 17, no. 4 (October 2006), pp. 5-18. op cit.
12 Giorgi Kandelaki, Rose Revolution: A Participant’s Story (U.S. Institute of Peace, Special
Report, November 2005).
Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik

success, of the role that hope and a sense of possibility could play in activating
apathetic and alienated citizens. 13
This chapter will focus on some of the factors that conditioned the participation of
young people in electoral revolutions in the countries addressed by this volume and
on the impact of young people’s participation not only during, but after.
14 Key issues
addressed include the relative importance of young people in the developments that
led to the victory of the opposition in the elections, their relationship to older NGO
and opposition leaders, the process by which young people became radicalized, the
tactics and strategies used and the impact of new technologies on young people’s
actions. Underlying factors that infl uenced young people’s involvement and the
legacy of these periods of intense involvement of young people for the political
process are also addressed.
Youth: How Important?
In these authors’ earlier discussions of this issue, it has been argued that the role
of youth in both initiating and supporting the citizens’ movements that produced
political change varied considerably in the cases under examination. In Slovakia
and Croatia, young people were part of broader civic campaigns to, in the fi rst case,
oust Mečiar, and in the second, defeat the party of the deceased nationalist leader,
Franjo Tuđman. Thus, young Slovaks were important participants in activities such
as the “March through Slovakia” that brought the opposition’s message to voters in
towns and villages across the country, as well as in citizens’ meetings with political
candidates. They also contributed to the campaign by making and distributing fl yers
and leafl ets in an effort to inform citizens and to get-out-the-vote. One of their more
visible actions was called “Rock the Vote” (Rock volieb), that included a series of
rock concerts and public performances designed to appeal especially to young
15 Young people were also an important target group of the broader citizens’
campaign. Survey research sponsored by the International Republican Institute
(IRI) showed very clearly that young voters would be far more likely to vote for the
13 These authors have analyzed the role of youth in the electoral revolutions in Slovakia, Serbia
and Georgia in some detail in a previously published article. See Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L.
Wolchik, “Youth and Electoral Revolutions in Slovakia, Serbia and Georgia”, SAIS Review, vol. 26,
no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2006), pp. 55-65.
14 Ibid.
15 Interview with Šarlota Puffl erová spokesperson for the OK ‘98 campaign, Bratislava, May
1999, Interview with Pavol Demeš, Washington, DC, Bratislava, May 1999. Please refer to Marek
Kapusta, Rock volieb ‘98 Campaign-Report on Activities and Results: A Case Study (Foundation for
a Civil Society, Bratislava, 1998); Martin Bútora, Grigorij Mesežnikov, Zora Bútorová and Sharon
Fisher (eds.), The 1998 Parliamentary Elections and Democratic Rebirth in Slovakia (Institute
for Public Affairs, Bratislava, 1999); and Preliminary Report. Slovakia, 1999, Civil Society and
Governance (Comparative Research under the Auspices of the Institute of Development Studies,
University of Sussex, 1999), for examples of overviews treating the OK ‘98 campaign more

opposition coalition than for Mečiar’s party. The get-out-the-vote campaign, thus,
put a great deal of emphasis on energizing and mobilizing young, particularly fi rst-
time, voters. At the same time, although young people were clearly an important part
of the campaign, they were not its leaders. Rather, they were one part of a broader
campaign organized and led by older activists in the well-organized NGO community.
Members of radical student organizations at the universities, including Odbojová
mládež ( Youth Resistance), par ticipated in some of the activities of OK ‘98, but they
did not formally join the campaign, in part because their activities, which included
staging provocations at meetings of Mečiar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia
(HZDS), were seen as too radical by some of the leaders of OK ‘98.
The role of young people was very similar in the Croatian campaign of 2000. Identifi ed
as a reservoir of electoral support for the opposition, young voters were one of the
main targets of the get-out-the-vote campaign in Croatia. They also participated
in signifi cant numbers, as did their counterparts in Slovakia, as election monitors
and helped get the message of older activists out to the broader public. Gradjani
organizovano nadgledaju glasanje (Citizens Organized to Monitor Elections) or GONG,
played an important role in training and organizing the participation of young people
as election monitors.
16 The campaign to mobilize young voters was also a major part
of GL AS 99, discus sed in depth in another chapter of this volume. Young people and
others involved in the campaign directed at youth made use of a variety of humorous
slogans, ads and pamphlets, in order to juxtapose the outdated and stodgy ways of
the regime and the youthful, modern, forward thinking of the citizens’ campaign. As
in Slovakia, however, young people were a secondary or supportive force in actions
organized by the broader NGO community and the political opposition. This role
refl ected, in part, the fact that the “older” opposition remained politically engaged
throughout the transition period.
Young people took more of a leadership role in the remaining cases examined.
There is little doubt that OTPOR was the driving force in the ouster of Milošević in
Serbia. That organization played a pivotal role, fi rst, in challenging Milošević’s power
by organizing both college-age and even much younger youth throughout Serbia,
mocking the regime, courting the Serbian Orthodox Church and pressuring the older
opposition actors to form large and durable political alliances. Once early elections
were called in summer 2000 and Milošević unexpectedly put his name on the ballot,
OTPOR was central in the campaign to register voters, get-out-the-vote, monitor the
elections, and more generally, to discredit the regime through humor and street
theatre. When Milošević attempted to steal the election, large numbers of OTPOR
16 Interview with Alan Vojvodic, Zagreb, June 2005.
Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik

activists, who had been trained in techniques of nonviolent confl ict, 17 participated in
the short, but important, street protests that forced Milošević to cede power.
In Georgia, where the movement for change was much smaller in general, KMARA,
the youth organization modeled on OTPOR, and its leaders, were in the forefront of
the movement.
18 Indeed, they accompanied Mikheil Saakashvili (who had once been
a minister in the government) when he led protesters to parliament, challenging not
just the results of the parliamentary election in late 2003, but also President Eduard
Shevardnadze’s right to remain in offi ce. In addition, many of Saakashvili’s most
important allies were young leaders of important NGOs, such as the Liberty Institute
and the Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association. As in Serbia, young activists in Georgia
coordinated their activities with the older opposition and with NGO leaders. This
said, however, OTPOR was distinctive in maintaining its autonomy and functioned
more as a primary instigator of the process of change than as its “assistant”.
Young people were also central to the process that brought about the victory of
Yushchenko in Ukraine in 2004. As the chapter on PORA in this volume demonstrates,
students, many of whom had been active in earlier student campaigns in the 1990s,
accounted for most of PORA’s activists. Part of the broader civic campaign aimed
at educating and mobilizing voters and ensuring free and fair presidential elections,
PORA proved to be the critical actor in organizing mass protests in anticipation of
the falsifi cation of the fi rst round of the presidential election.
19 Young people also
participated in the pre-election campaign and post-election protests as members
of other NGOs including Studentska khvylia (Student Wave), Znayu (I know), the
Freedom of Choice Coalition and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine.
As this brief review illustrates, young people and their organizations also had varying
relationships to other actors in the events described by the case studies in this
book. Although activists in OTPOR and PORA worked closely with other elements
of the opposition and NGOs, they retained a great deal of autonomy. OTPOR, in
particular, remained skeptical of the motives of the organized political opposition,
in part because of its track record. While active, the Serbian opposition was
relatively internally divided, and on occasion some leaders collaborated with the
17 One of the central resources for training in nonviolent resistance was Gene Sharp’s From
Dictatorship to Democracy; available online at /organizations/org /
18 See Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik, “Youth and Electoral Revolutions in Slovakia,
Serbia and Georgia”, SAIS Review, vol. 26, no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2006), pp. 55-65., op cit.
19 See Nadia Diuk, “The Triumph of Civil Society”, in: Anders Aslund and Michael McFaul (eds.),
Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic Breakthrough (Carnegie Endowment
Press, Washington, DC, 2006) and Taras Kuzio, “Ukraine Is Not Russia: Comparing Youth Activism”,
SAIS Review, vol. 26, no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2006).
20 See Taras Kuzio, “Ukraine Is Not Russia: Comparing Youth Activism”, SAIS Review, vol. 26,
no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2006), op cit; Taras Kuzio, “Everyday Ukrainians and the Orange Revolution”,
in: Anders Aslund and Michael McFaul (eds.), Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine’s
Democratic Breakthrough (Carnegie Endowment Press, Washington, DC, 2006).

regime. Moreover, OTPOR members were strongly infl uenced by two developments
distinctive to Serbia: the remarkable 88-day protests in 1996 to 1997 that placed
considerable pressure on the regime to accept the results of the local elections and
to allow oppositions to take offi ce and the harsh crackdown, soon thereafter, on the
power of local governments and the autonomy of universities.
21 What is important
to recognize, therefore, is that by the second half of the 1990s repression had
increased signifi cantly in Serbia. Both youth and the older opposition were primary
targets. KMARA activists in Georgia, who were far less numerous than those
involved in OTPOR or PORA, worked more closely with established NGOs and with
the political opposition, particularly, Mikheil Saakashvili. Moreover, the Georgian
political setting was less harsh than that in Serbia, especially regarding regime
control over the media. In Croatia and Slovakia, students were active primarily as
part, and as objects, of an overall strategy devised by others.
Strategies and Tactics
One of the interesting aspects of the role young people played in the electoral
revolutions under consideration is the fact that, despite their leadership, or lack
thereof, and despite the many ways in which their situations differed from one
country to another, their strategies and tactics were quite similar. Thus, most young
leaders and organizations in the countries considered chose nonhierarchical forms
of organization and nonviolent techniques.
22 With few exceptions, young activists
adhered very closely to the idea that they could only win converts and overcome
the apathy and alienation of the population, particularly among youth, by eschewing
violence and relying on persuasion, organization and planning and on the power
of example. Many were trained in techniques of nonviolent confl ict, including most
notably those set out by Gene Sharp.
23 They were aware of the resources the regimes
could muster against them and generally chose nonviolent methods of exposing the
incumbent leaderships’ defi cits. The participation of young people in the storming
of the parliament in Belgrade in Serbia and of the White House in Tbilisi in Georgia,
along with the role that young people played in the spontaneous protests that broke
out in Bulgaria early in 1997, may be seen as partial exceptions to this rule, but it
was only in Kyrgyzstan that the end of the old regime resulted in violence.
21 Mladen Lazić (ed.), Protest in Belgrade: Winter of Discontent (Central European University
P r e s s , B u d a p e s t , 1 9 9 9) ; V l a d i m i r I l i ć , O T P O R : I n o r B e y o n d P o l i t i c s ( H e l s i n k i C o m m i t t e e f o r H u m a n
Rights in Serbia, Belgrade, 2001).
22 U.S. Institute of Peace, Strategic Non-Violent Confl ict: Lessons from the Past, Ideas for the
Future (U.S. Institute of Peace Special Report, May 2002).
23 Ibid.
24 In this case, the end of the Akayev government led to protestors taking over the Southern half
of the country and organizing demonstrations against the results of the parliamentary elections.
This created a power vacuum that allowed widespread looting to take place.
Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik

However, and as the chapters in this volume and other studies illustrate, there
were clearly also differences between the actions undertaken by young people that
refl ected the particular circumstances in which they found themselves and national
traditions. Thus, PORA activists in Ukraine adopted an organizational strategy that
refl ected both previous experiences from the student movements of the 1990s and
the country’s large size, as well as symbols that could resonate with populations in
different parts of the country.
25 However, they also relied very heavily on many of
the same strategies and techniques used in earlier electoral revolutions, as well
as in earlier struggles against communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the
Soviet Union. As in the actions of young people against the regime in Poland in
the 1980s,
26 humor and ridicule played a large role in the actions of all of these
groups, and symbols and actions that depicted the old regime as powerless and
outdated, as well as corrupt and detrimental to the country’s future, were common.
Posters, fl yers and t-shirts were used in all of these sometimes only half jokingly
called “t-shirt revolutions”, as were street theatre, rock concerts and other events
designed to rouse citizens from their apathy and create the sense that change was
not just possible, but also desirable. The slogan in Serbia, “Gotov je” (He’s fi nished),
was typical of the kind of succinct and very effective appeal young people made to
the public in order to challenge authoritarian leaders. Also typical was a pattern of
establishing direct contact with potential voters.
Young activists also relied on new technologies and new media. This emphasis, which
refl ects the greater degree of comfort that young people have with cell phones, text
messaging and various aspects of the Internet, ranging from email to web sites, was
particularly evident in the Ukrainian case, where PORA activists and leaders made
great use of cell phones to keep in touch with each other and to coordinate their
Underlying Factors
One struggle any analyst of episodes of “contentious politics” faces is how to reconcile
explanations that privilege structure with those that focus on agency. In other words,
t he que s t ion to b e an swere d c onc er n s t he ex tent to whic h i t i s ne c e s s ar y to fo cu s on
the structures of political opportunities, in this case for youth activism, and to which
extent the analysis should focus on more contingent decisions and actions by those
involved. One of the puzzles in looking at the role of youth is how to explain why
25 See Vladyslav Kaskiv, Iryna Chupryna and Yevhen Zolotatiov, “It’s Time! PORA and the Orange
Revolution in Ukraine” in this volume; Nadia Diuk, “The Triumph of Civil Society”, in: Anders
Aslund and Michael McFaul (eds.), Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine’s Democratic
Breakthrough (Carnegie Endowment Press, Washington, DC, 2006), op cit.
26 See Padraic Kenney, A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe 1989 (Princeton University
Press, Princeton, 2002), op cit.

sizeable numbers of young people in the countries concerned became politically
active in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
To s o m e d e g r e e , o f c o u r s e , y o u n g p e o p l e w e r e i n fl u e n c e d b y t h e s a m e f a c t o r s a s t h e i r
elders. As outlined in greater detail elsewhere,
27 there were important differences in
the circumstances under which electoral revolutions occurred and these differences
might have been infl uential on the extent to which youth became involved, as well
as on their strategies and tactics. These are particularly evident if one looks at the
degree of repressiveness of the old regime, whether indicated by control over the
media, willingness and capacity to control elections, limits on civil liberties and
political rights or the use of violence to punish both potential and real enemies.
From this vantage point, cases of electoral revolution may be understood as ranging
from Slovakia at one end of a spectrum of repression to Serbia and Kyrgyzstan, at
the other. Here, it is important to note, for example, that 1,700 members of OTPOR
were taken into police custody prior to the 2000 election in Serbia, and during
the electoral campaign, the police repeatedly raided OTPOR offi ces, seizing their
equipment and bringing volunteers in for questioning.
28 Georgia and Croatia, at the
time of their revolutions, fell in the middle of this continuum, while Ukraine fell closer
to Serbia and Kyrgyzstan. Just as important are differences in the size and autonomy
of civil society. Here, we can (roughly) array cases from the most developed civil
society in Slovakia to the least developed in Kyrgyzstan, with the remaining cases, in
fact, skewed more towards the Slovak end of the continuum. Put simply, therefore,
the level of repression did not predict civil society development all that well, which
testifi es, among other things, to the importance of civil society and its long-term
development for electoral revolutions. In addition, cases varied in the state of the
economy, the country’s aspirations, or lack thereof, to join Euroatlantic institutions
and the extent to which the existing regime had experienced signifi cant defections
by supporters, whether among politicians or the police and security forces.
However, there were also a number of similarities between these cases that, in the
end, proved to be more important. Thus, in all of the cases examined, the old leader or
regime was vulnerable, whether because of economic failure, international isolation,
corruption or perceived governance fatigue. It is striking in the Georgian case, for
example, how widespread the perception was among young people and leaders of
the liberal opposition that Shevardnadze was tired, distant and, as a result, unlikely
to defend his power, even when, as in 2003, he was not up for re-election. That he
failed to re-assemble his governing party, once it began to dissolve during and after
27 See Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik, “Youth and Electoral Revolutions in Slovakia,
Serbia and Georgia”, SAIS Review, vol. 26, no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2006), pp. 55-65, op cit; “Electoral
Breakthroughs in Postcommunist Europe and Eurasia: How Do We Explain Successes and
Failures?”, unpublished manuscript.
28 Vladimir Goati, “The Nature of the Order and the October Overthrow in Serbia”, in: Ivana
Spasić and Milan Subotić (eds.), R/evolution and Order: Serbia After October 2000 (Institute for
Philosophy and Sociology, Belgrade, 2001), pp. 45-57.
Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik

the local elections and that he gave up trying to reign in the media in response to
popular protests, both of which prefaced by several years the pivotal elections of
2003, communicated to all those dissatisfi ed with his rule that he lacked the will
and the means to remain in power.
Elections, furthermore, provided a very useful focus for youth activities in that they
we re a ve r y v i s ib l e, imp o r t an t , b u t t ime limi te d, eve n t . T hey re quire d s p e c i fi c ac t i o n s ,
they required short bursts of political engagement, they provided a clear opportunity
for individuals to register their concerns and they had an end-point that provided
a clear measure of the regime’s political support. Moreover, elections, far more
than other aspects of democratic life, are understood in the public mindset as the
measure of democracy, which is why even authoritarian leaders feel compelled to
hold them regularly, even if not allowing them to be conducted in full freedom. As
with older activist s, youth in these countries were also infl uenced by a transnational
network of out side actors that suppor ted and encouraged and, in some cases, even
initiated, their activities.
What is interesting here is that electoral breakthroughs, and youth participation in
them, occurred in what scholars of political opportunity structures call both high and
low opportunity regimes and in systems with high and low capacity governments.
As the diffusion of the strategies and techniques used in electoral revolutions in the
postcommunist world illustrates, perceived political opportunities may be equally
or more important than actual opportunities.
30 In some ways, this is not surprising.
There are many cases outside this region where crackdowns on political protests
have fed, rather than frustrated, subsequent rounds of political mobilization.
A related question concerns the process by which young activists became politicized
or radicalized enough to become active in the public sphere. As argued on earlier
occasions, some young people who became active in the electoral revolutions appear
to have followed a route that was very common during the 1960s in the United
States and Western Europe. Thus, some activists fi rst became involved in public life
or protest in connection with issues that affected their status as students or young
people directly. Several of the leaders of PORA, for example, had participated in
student movements in Ukraine in the early 1990s. Similarly, the founders of OTPOR
were veterans of student protests in 1996 and 1997 against the Milošević regime,
29 See Mark R. Beissinger, Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State
(Cambridge University Press, New York, 2002); Doug McAdam, Sidney Tarrow and Charles Tilly,
“Comparative Perspectives on Contentious Politics”, in: Mark Lichbach and Alan Zuckerman
(eds.), Ideals, Interests and Institutions: Advancing Theory in Comparative Politics (Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, 2006).
30 See Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik, “Youth and Electoral Revolutions in Slovakia,
Serbia and Georgia”, SAIS Review, vol. 26, no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2006), pp. 55-65; “Favorable
Conditions and Electoral Revolutions”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 17, no. 4 (October 2006), pp.
5-18, op cit.
31 Ronald Francisco, “After the Massacre: Mobilization in the Wake of Harsh Repression”,
Mobilization: An International Journal, vol. 9, no. 2 (June 2004), pp. 107-126.

and the very founding of OTPOR took place in reaction to his efforts, beginning
in 1998, to restrict university autonomy. Youth activists in Georgia, Croatia and
Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, as well as many young activists in Slovakia, fi rst
became engaged to protest or change the policies or the personnel of the national
Some of the factors that appear to have infl uenced young people’s decisions about
getting involved are also similar to those that have led to higher levels of youth activism
in other settings. These include an unpopular regime that adopted policies young
people did not like, youthful idealism and enthusiasm coupled with the perception
that a great deal was at stake for them if change did not occur and, in some cases,
p r ev i o u s e x p e r i e n c e s w i t h m o b i l iz a t i o n ar o u n d i s s u e s r e l a t e d t o s tu d e n t l i fe . I n m any
of the cases under consideration, moreover, long-entrenched authoritarian regimes
left young people with virtually no hope for economic opportunities and those who
could leave often did. This was a clear pattern in post-independence Serbia, Georgia
and Ukraine.
Other factors that contributed to the mobilization of young people were peculiar
to the postcommunist setting. Whatever differences there were in the economic
or political situations young people faced prior to the electoral revolutions, their
societies faced numerous common economic and political problems because they
were postcommunist societies. Young people grew up in countries in which the
old structures that had molded and limited their parents’ lives no longer existed.
This factor created both benefi ts and drawbacks for young people. On the negative
side, the end of communism created a great deal of uncertainty in all areas of life
and, for certain groups in the population, particularly in countries such as those
discussed here, in which there was not a radical and sustained break with the past,
a fair degree of hardship. These effects were often compounded by disruption and
disillusionment caused by the transition and the actions of less than scrupulous
political leaders and citizens alike. On the other hand, many young people,
particularly those in urban areas and at universities, had had far more extensive
opportunities than their parents’ generation to travel abroad or, at the very least,
to be exposed to the broader world via television and the Internet. The yearning,
as some expressed it, to live in a “normal” country, with easy access to both the
material and cultural goods of advanced industrial societies, led some young
people to make the link between their own life situations and the semi-autocratic
or backsliding regimes in power in their countries. Many young people were, thus,
tired of the limited possibilities they faced at home and became active because they
wanted to register their dissatisfaction with the impossibility of obtaining a decent
job and the lack of opportunity for professional advancement because the regime
had failed to undertake real economic reform and was corrupt or with the threat of
32 See Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik, “Youth and Electoral Revolutions in Slovakia,
Serbia and Georgia”, SAIS Review, vol. 26, no. 2 (Summer-Fall 2006), pp. 55-65, op cit.
Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik

being isolated from the “West” and stuck in a “grey zone” of countries, because their
political leaders engaged in illiberal actions, as was the case in Slovakia, or would
not comply with the international community’s demands for cooperation with the
international war crimes tribunal, as was the case in Croatia and Serbia. Perhaps
the bitterest pill for young people in Serbia to swallow was that their country was
bombed by NATO in 1999.
The facility of young people in using new modes of communication such as the
Internet, cell phones and text messaging, also helped to spread youth activism. The
impact of this factor was particularly evident in the Ukrainian case, where the regime
exercised tight control over the media, yet where the role of an Internet newspaper,
Ukrainskaya Pravda, in reaching young citizens was enormous. Similarly, coordination
among the various units of PORA and the organization of protests on Maidan would
have been diffi cult, if not impossible, to achieve without ready access to cell phones.
Young activists learned a great deal about developments in other parts of the world,
including those in which there had been previous electoral revolutions, from Internet
sites, which also served as a means of internal communication.
Efforts to reform and expand civic education are another factor that may have had
some infl uence on the mobilization of young people in several of these postcommunist
states. Although the extent of such efforts and the ability of activists to pursue
them free of interference from the regime varied considerably across the region, the
adoption of democracy as an offi cial norm was accompanied in all by an effort, be
it only skin deep, to educate citizens to take an active part in civic and political life.
Even in a country such as Slovakia, which experienced a brief but important break
with the past and a short period of rapid movement toward democracy before Mečiar
became the dominant political fi gure, such efforts were controversial and often
faced both political and bureaucratic obstacles. In more authoritarian settings, such
as Croatia under Tuđman and Serbia under Milošević, there was far less leeway for
such education and political interference was far greater. In fact, in these cases,
the regime had become more intrusive over time. But, in all, there was at least
of fi cial recognition of the rights of citizens to be involved in the political process and
to have their voices heard, and in all, there were at least some of the trappings of
democracy. Research on young people indicates that many are alienated from the
political system, as well as from those in power. However, as the fi rst generation in
this region to have been raised almost entirely in the postcommunist era, young
people can be expected to have been more open than their elders to calls to
abandon their passivity and take an active role in shaping their own future through
participation in elections and civic campaigns. The format of the civic movements
that developed (loose coalitions of citizens organized nonhierarchically) may also
have been far more appealing to young people than membership in a political party
or other forms of “politics as usual”.

The availability of experiences and models of electoral change and the support
provided by transnational networks for democracy promotion are fi nal factors that
infl uenced the politicization of young people in the cases examined. Young people
who had participated in the earlier electoral breakthroughs were prominent among
those who traveled to share their experiences and strategies with others in semi-
authoritarian states. Whether it was leaders of MEMO ‘98 or Civic Eye in Slovakia in
1998 or of OTPOR or CeSID, the key organizations in Serbia in 2000, young activists
helped inspire as well as train other young people in techniques of nonviolent
confl ict, media and election monitoring and get-out-the-vote strategies. Given the
similarity in age and experiences, young “graduates” were powerful examples of the
rewards of overcoming passivity and getting involved in public life.
Conclusion: The Longer-Term Impact
on Civil Society and Politics
The mobilization of young people in the context of the electoral breakthroughs
examined might have been expected to lead to a major and durable increase in
the participation of young people in the political process. There is some evidence
that, in certain cases, participating in the get-out-the-vote campaigns and protests
did serve as a “school of democracy” with lasting effects. But, this occurred only in
some cases and only for some groups. The youth organizations that formed to lead
or participate in the electoral breakthroughs have had different fates.
Some young activists suspended their distrust of parliamentary politics and formed
political parties. The effort by some of OTPOR’s leaders to do this failed, as their
party gained less than two percent of the vote in the December 2003 parliamentary
elections. Similarly, the efforts of one fraction of PORA to turn popular support
during the Orange Revolution into votes failed, with the political party PORA also
gaining less than two percent of the vote in the March 2006 parliamentary elections.
KMARA no longer exists as an organization, although some of its leaders have been
successful individually as advisors to the current Georgian leadership. Most of the
young leaders who emerged during these episodes of civic awakening, however, have
followed the path of most of their supporters, which is to say, they returned to their
studies or began careers as lawyers, doctors, professors or in other professions.
But, some have also taken a different route. Most clearly evident in the activities of
several of OTPOR’s leaders, but also in the work of some PORA activists and young
people who participated in the OK ‘98 campaign in Slovakia, some have continued
to work as organizers and activists, this time in other countries. With support from
their own and other governments and various international organizations, these
young people have founded think tanks or have joined existing groups that allow
them to share their expertise with activists attempting to change regimes in Belarus
and other countries, including in Central Asia. For these activists, participation in
Valerie J. Bunce and Sharon L. Wolchik

the campaigns that led to leadership change in their countries has had a lasting
The impact of these experiences on the political behavior and attitudes of other
young people does not appear to be as lasting, however. Studies of youth in Croatia,
for example, have found that there were greater differences in the voting preferences
among young people in 1999, just prior to the 2000 elections, than in 2004. Many
young people have also simply reverted to their generally passive political role. Thus,
voting levels among young people, as well as more active forms of youth involvement
in politics, were once again far lower than those of older groups in the population.
NGO leaders in Ukraine note the generally higher levels of interest of young people
in politics since the Orange Revolution, but it remains signifi cant that they did not
turn out in suffi cient numbers during the parliamentary elections in March 2006 to
prevent the victory of Yanukovych forces.
The decline in political activity and interest among young people may refl ect
disappointment with the outcome of the electoral breakthroughs. In Serbia, high
levels of youth alienation refl ect, in part, the continuing inability of the government
to make signifi cant progress on combating corruption, reforming the economy and
settling state border questions. Another factor may also be at play here, however,
particularly in those cases in which the breakthrough has led to sustained progress
towards creating democratic political life and international recognition of the change
of direction of the country. Thus, some young people may have retreated from active
political involvement because they felt that their country was on the right track and
that they had the luxury of following the path many young people choose in stable
societies, which is to focus on their private lives by completing their education,
establishing careers and, in some cases, beginning families.
Whether this withdrawal from the politics of campaigns and protest is a sign of
success or failure of the governments that came to power after the breakthroughs
in question and the impact of their experiences on the political values and attitudes
young people later hold is, however, a matter for further investigation.
33 Institut za drustvena istrazivanju, Mladi Hrvatski i europska integracija (Zagreb, 2005).

Robin Shepherd
In some quarters, it was once an article of ideological faith that the relationship
between economic and social conditions and the prospects for revolutionary
change was self-evident. In the old jargon of Marxist discourse, changes to the
political “superstructure” were always pre-determined by tectonic shifts at the
economic “base”. Indeed, not so very long ago in the countries surveyed in this
book, totalitarian systems of government, inspired by such ideological precepts,
explicitly forbade serious discussion about alternative ways of trying to understand
the currents of political change that shape the course of history.
These days, however, economic determinism, especially the kind propounded in
Marxist-Leninist ideology, has gone out of fashion. It has been replaced by a profound
recognition that crudely reductionist systems of analysis are simply unable to cope
with the sheer complexity of the social and political organism. No one disputes that
the economy plays some role in infl uencing political change. But, economic factors,
which appear to have played key roles in the chain of cause and effect leading to
revolutionary change in one country often turn out to have been less signifi cant, or
indeed absent, in others. Moreover, economic factors do not exist in isolation from
other factors at play. The urge to revolt against a particular system of government
is derived from a variety of psychological impulses that are usually impossible to
disentangle from one other.
By way of brief illustration, consider Ukraine prior to the Orange Revolution. In that
country, and at that time, many oppositionists would cite their horror at the fate of
murdered opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze as a key motivation for wanting
to bring down the Kuchma regime. But, they would do so alongside concerns about
corruption in privatization, the presence of political censorship, their outrage at
social injustice and many other issues. No single factor existed in isolation from the
At the other end of the ideological spectrum from Marxian determinism, there is,
of course, a wide body of thinking, which holds that there is a fi rm link between
democracy and the market economy. A privatized economy, it is held, disperses
power throughout society in such a way that political authoritarianism becomes less
and less tenable. It provides a social dynamic improving the chances for democratic
breakthroughs and enhancing democratic consolidation, once those breakthroughs
have been made.

There is undoubtedly much that is worthwhile in this kind of argumentation. But,
the experience of more than two-dozen postcommunist countries over the last
decade and a half or so must surely make its exponents pause for thought. Russia,
for example, is a largely privatized, market economy. Yet, few would claim that
democracy under the Putin administration has become stronger as a result. Slovakia
and Poland, both now members of the European Union, have been among the best
economic reformers in the postcommunist world in recent years. That did not stop
populists and nationalists gaining footholds in power following recent elections.
With such thoughts in mind, what follows is not an attempt to breathe life into the
rotting corpse of economic determinism, however that may choose to express itself.
Instead, this chapter attempts to round out the discussion of revolutionary events in
the postcommunist world by surveying the broad economic conditions prevailing in
the countries under consideration prior to political change and by looking selectively
at some economy related issues which appear to be most relevant. Crucially, it
also fl ags some of the dangers of imposing western ways of understanding the
relationship between economics and politics onto countries whose political cultures
and basic economic infrastructures are very differently constituted. What matters in
terms of the role of economics in a potentially revolutionary situation, after all, is not
how outside observers view things, but how they are perceived by the actual agents
of change, the people in the countries themselves.
Economic Dynamics Prior to Democratic Change
There are few revolutions in recent history, which illustrate the paucity of the
connection between overall economic performance and the impulse towards
political change than the Orange Revolution in Ukraine at the end of 2004. During
that year, fi gures from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
1 put real growth in gross domestic product in the country at 12.1 percent.
In the fi ve years since 2000, yearly growth never fell below 5 percent and averaged
8.4 percent. Gross average monthly earnings rose at a rate of almost 28 percent.
Infl ation stood at 9 percent and the offi cial unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. To
say the least, therefore, the economic cycle hardly disfavored the Kuchma regime.
Such impressive macroeconomic indicators, however, can be misleading. Economic
growth fi gures, it should be remembered, merely offer a picture of the way in which
an economy is performing relative to itself over time. In western economies with
high income levels, high growth rates are usually expected to produce a “feel
good” factor with positive consequences for political incumbents. High growth in
1 All economic data in this chapter are taken from the Transition Reports of the European Bank
for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), available at

a developed economy means that a given population moves from a high absolute
level of income in one year to an even higher absolute level in another.
The rules of the game for much lower income societies may, however, be very
di f ferent and i t i s v i t al to b e ar t hi s in mind i f s er iou s mi sju dg ment s are to b e avoi de d.
When one looks further into the economic situation in Ukraine, it is easy to see
why. Gross domestic product per capita rose in Ukraine from the 2003 level of US$
1,053, or approximately US$ 3 per person per day, to the 2004 level of US$ 1,374,
or approximately US$ 3.75 per person per day. Strong growth rates, therefore, took
place against what, by western standards, would be considered an extremely low
base, yielding a rise in national income of just 75 cents per person per day.
The key point, then, is that headline growth rates, which look impressive to the
outsider, may well be viewed very differently from inside the country. Indeed,
this is a lesson, which ought to be borne in mind when trying to understand the
dynamics of political economy in all relatively poor countries. For, even accepting the
questionable assumption that high growth rates are evenly spread across all income
groups in the population, they may still yield very small absolute gains. People on
very low incomes may need to see a doubling or trebling in their purchasing power
before they begin to feel that they are no longer poor. Double-digit growth rates
that would create euphoria in Western Europe or in the United States may simply
not be suffi cient to overcome deep seated feelings of economic privation in other
countries. Growth may be high, but discontent at the everyday reality of life in a low
income country remains.
Similar observations may be made about the economic situation in the run-up to
Georgia’s Rose Revolution in 2003. Even a superfi cial glance at the most important
economic indicators hardly reveals a depressed economy. Real economic growth
in that year hit 11.1 percent and averaged 5.8 percent since 2000. Unemployment
dipped from 11.9 percent in 2002 to 10.7 percent in 2003, while gross monthly
earnings were rising at an annual average rate of 10.4 percent after rising 20.5 and
30.8 percent, respectively, in the two previous years. Infl ation stood at 4.9 percent.
In absolute terms, however, gross domestic product per capita in 2003 was just
US$ 864, or approximately US$ 2.35 per person per day.
The overall situation in Serbia in 2000, the year that saw the removal from power
of Slobodan Milošević, was more mixed. While growth, at 5.0 percent, was robust,
the economy had declined by 15.7 percent in 1999, the year that NATO bombed the
country over the Kosovo crisis. The country was also plagued by mass unemployment,
which ended the year at a rate of 25.6 percent. For those in work, gross earnings
were rising by more than 90 percent, though the annual infl ation rate was over 60
percent. Gross domestic product per capita was just US$ 834 or approximately US$
2.30 per day.
Robin Shepherd

The ouster of Croatia’s nationalist HDZ party in 2000 took place against an economic
background of negative growth of minus 0.9 percent in 1999. Unemployment was
13.6 percent with gross monthly earnings rising at an annual rate of 10.2 percent
and infl ation of 4.2 percent. Gross domestic product was US$ 4,371 per capita,
yielding an approximate level of US$ 12 per person per day.
For Slovakia, whose people charted a new political course after the overthrow of
Vladimír Mečiar at elections in 1998, gross domestic product per capita was US$
3,951 or US$ 10.8 per day. Gross domestic product growth was 4.0 percent with
gross monthly earnings rising at an annual average rate of 8.4 percent, against an
infl ationary backdrop of 6.7 percent. Unemployment was 15.6 percent.
So much, then, for the basic economic background on the fi ve countries under
consideration in this volume in the period preceding radical political change. And, so
much for any hope of establishing a pattern. All fi ve countries exhibit widely differing
growth rates, some spectacular, some robust, others more moderate, and only one
(Croatia) demonstrates recession. In all cases, growth in earnings is positive, in
some cases strong in others weaker, but in no case are real earnings declining.
Unemployment is high in most cases, though not, if the fi gures are reliable, in
Ukraine. Infl ation ranged from a low of 4.2 percent in Croatia to a high of 60 percent
in Serbia.
Perhaps the one thing that all the countries under consideration do have in common,
however, is that regardless of growth rates, national income per capita was well
below prevailing levels in Western Europe and the United States. The economic
dynamics may, thus, be less signifi cant to the ordinary citizen than the seemingly
unchanging reality of ongoing social deprivation. Reservoirs of political discontent
borne of feelings of relative or absolute poverty are not hard to fi nd.
Perceptions: Corrupting Politics
But, it is not simply a question of the direct conditions in which people live. There are
also the crucial questions of whether people believe that the rules of the game apply
to all equally and whether they believe that everyone has a chance to improve their
lot if they work hard and employ their abilities effectively. Diffi cult circumstances do
not necessarily translate into social and political discontent. If belief that society
is governed by meritocratic principles prevails, discontent is not inevitable. If, on
the other hand, there is a general perception that the rulers and their cohorts have
rigged the system in their favor and have unfairly or illegally appropriated property
and wealth for themselves, it can have a deeply depressing effect on society.
The way in which public perceptions about economy and society intermingle with the
political can be clearly seen, therefore, when considering the issue of corruption,
possibly the number one gripe among all countries in the postcommunist world.

The perception of prevalent corrupt practices, after all, refl ects on the reputation of
political elites in a manner, which may do fatal damage to a regime’s reputation.
All former communist countries started out on the path to reform with judicial systems
and law enforcement agencies, which were totally beholden to the previous regimes.
In communist countries, the rule of law was superseded by the rule of politics, which
is to say that the ruling party always stood above the law and directed it according
to its own whims. It was always, therefore, going to be diffi cult to establish good
practices after decades in which judges, lawyers and policemen had been trained
to think and act in a manner appropriate to a totalitarian environment. The problem
was compounded tenfold, however, because of the urgent need for governments to
privatize entire swathes of what had previously been a totally (or nearly totally) state
owned economy. Examples of corruption in privatization are, of course, ubiquitous,
which makes it extremely diffi cult to assess its importance in discrediting those
regimes, which succumbed to a second wave of revolutionary activity. Nevertheless,
the example of Slovakia, especially when seen in contrast with the Czech Republic,
may be instructive.
Privatization began for both countries inside Czechoslovakia, which broke apart
peacefully at the end of 1992. The federal government chose to use a highly
innovative voucher system to implement the privatization of state property. The
idea behind the voucher system was to sell off the country’s assets without giving
undue advantage to those who had done well out of communism, mostly the former
political elite and black marketeers. Voucher books were sold at an affordable price
to all citizens over the age of 18. The coupons they contained were used in bidding
rounds. The greater the demand for a particular share, the more rounds and the
more coupons needed to obtain one. As envisaged by its creators, the system was
transparent, fair and contained built in mechanisms to prevent corruption, because
people in positions of power had no obvious advantage over ordinary citizens. The
mass voucher privatization process was launched in two rounds, the fi rst of which
took place before the Czech and Slovak Republics emerged as independent states
on January 1, 1993.
Following the split, the Czech Republic went forward with the second phase of
voucher privatization, while Slovakia, under the leadership of Vladimír Mečiar,
cancelled it. The Mečiar government’s motivation in canceling the second round of
voucher privatization became crystal clear on March 15, 1994, when 27 direct sales
of state enterprises to allies and friends of Mečiar’s government were approved in
one night. The most infamous case was that of the VSZ Košice steel mill, at that time
the country’s biggest company. It was sold to Alexander Rezeš, a close ally of Mečiar.
Later that year, Rezeš became transport minister in Mečiar’s government. In 1998,
he managed the election campaign of Mečiar’s party.
Robin Shepherd

One major study of corruption in privatization in the former Czechoslovakia and
its successor states concluded that in Mečiar’s Slovakia, corruption had become
“systemic” in nature.
2 The government had simply used the privatization of state
assets to forge alliances with individuals that would become wealthy allies. Those
allies would sometimes receive positions of state power and would always be
expected to use their wealth to shore up the government that had helped them to
gain both wealth and position. The era of crony capitalism had arrived. The sheer
visibility of what Mečiar had been doing caused outrage among those sections
of society that were not already loyal to the government and played an important
role in energizing the opposition movement and giving it fertile ground on which to
Once again it is helpful to set these events in their proper context. Back in the Czech
Republic, a country which did not experience revolutionary change, ordinary citizens
were far from satisfi ed with the way their own privatization process had, in the end,
turned out. Among dozens of highly publicized cases, that of Jaroslav Lizner, the
chief offi cial heading the voucher privatization process and the boss of the Central
Securities Register, who was caught red handed with US$ 300,000 in cash in a
suitcase outside a Chinese restaurant in Prague, is probably the most notorious.
He had taken the money to “broker” a deal between the TransWorld International
company, a dairy called Klatovské Mlékárny and CS Fond. He was sentenced to
seven years in jail (a sentence reduced to six on appeal) for accepting a bribe and
abusing his offi ce. A poll conducted in July 2004 found that 69 percent of the Czech
population believed that bribery was used by companies to buy state property.
Nevertheless, the contrast between what has been described as “institutionalized”
corruption, the corruption which was allowed to exist by ruling elites during the
privatization process in the Czech Republic, but which was not actually intended,
and the “systemic” corruption of Mečiar’s Slovakia, which involved corruption being
a matter of government policy, may have been signifi cant.
Ordinary Czechs certainly believed that the state, construed as referring to state
offi cials in general, had not given them a fair deal during privatization. But, it was
almost impossible for ordinary people in Slovakia not to see that Mečiar had created a
crony network that was now fi nancing his activities. The connection between corrupt
practices and the highest state offi cials, such as the prime minister, was never as
close as in Slovakia. In the end, that distinction illustrated the gaping gulf that had
emerged between the style of the governments operating in the Czech Republic and
Slovakia since independence. With Slovaks acutely aware of that difference, it is
reasonable to surmise that it played no small par t in motivating large sec tions of the
2 Quentin Reed, “Political Corruption, Privatization and Control in the Czech Republic: a Case
Study of Problems in Multiple Transition”, Doctoral Thesis, Oriel College, Oxford, September
3 Ibid.

population to revolt against Mečiar and to help Slovakia plot an entirely new course
following elections in 1998.
Still, it remains diffi cult to draw broader conclusions. What applied in the particular
cases of the Czech Republic and Slovakia may not be applicable elsewhere.
Corruption in privatization was systemic in both Russia and Ukraine, two countries
that also emerged as independent entities from the same federal state. Revolutionary
change occurred in Ukraine. It did not in Russia.
To help illustrate the dangers of assuming too much about the importance of
corruption, and of foisting western expectations on to peoples whose expectations
of what constitutes normal behavior may be very different, it is perhaps useful to
consider a counter example, a case where revolutionary change did not take place,
despite widespread evidence of mass corruption.
Transparency International’s 2005 corruption perceptions index
4 ranked Alyaksandr
Lukashenka’s Belarus in position 107 out of 159 countries surveyed, with a ranking
of 2.6. In the index, a ranking of 10, the best possible ranking, is defi ned as “highly
clean” while 0, the lowest possible score, is defi ned as “highly corrupt”. Iceland had
the highest score with 9.7, while Chad and Bangladesh tied for the lowest score at
1.7 each. This ranking puts Belarus in the same category as Ukraine and, among
others, countries such as Zimbabwe and Eritrea. From a western perspective, the
situation looks dire, indeed.
But, in terms of public opinion inside Belarus on the extent to which levels of
corruption are viewed as “acceptable” or “unacceptable”, it is helpful to contrast the
situation prevailing in neighboring countries, which ordinary Belarusians frequently
visit and, whose styles of government might reasonably be expected to resonate in
the public consciousness. Russia was placed in 126
th position with a score of 2.4.
This is lower than Belarus, but not signifi cantly. Ukraine, as has already been noted,
scored the same. Poland, the biggest new EU member on Belarus’ border, scored
better but, perhaps surprisingly, not dramatically so. Poland came in 70
th with a
score of 3.4. Latvia ranked 51 st with a score of 4.2, while Lithuania ranked 44 th with
a score of 4.8.
In other words, although Belarus scores very badly in terms of corruption when
viewed from the global and especially western perspective, a rather different picture
emerges when one sets corruption in a context, which has more immediacy to the
Belarusian people. When one sets the problem of corruption in its regional context,
it is perhaps easier to understand how many ordinary Belarusians and Ukrainians
(as well as others in the region) fail to respond to a corrupt environment, which may
4 Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Indices are, according to the organization
itself, based on expert assessments and opinion surveys. Available at: https://www.transparency.
org /policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi.
Robin Shepherd

well be perceived locally as more or less normal, with the kind of horror western
observers might expect or wish.
The Voice of Business and the Private Economy
Social deprivation and corruption offer examples of the kind of economic issues
that might be expected to have negative consequences for incumbents. But, unless
there is a space in society for oppositionists to bring such issues into the public
domain, to link them in popular thinking with the practices of governments and to
suggest how things could be different under a new regime, the prospects for political
change are bleak. The role of the media, therefore, has been crucial. Consider the
following brief survey.
In 2003, multimillionaire Ukrainian businessman, Petro Poroshenko, bought a small
Ukrainian television station with low ratings and coverage extending to only limited
sections of the population. A strong supporter of the opposition Our Ukraine grouping,
Poroshenko gave the then opposition leader, Viktor Yushchenko, airspace to provide
at least something of a counterweight to the blatantly biased state controlled and
state supporting media. The importance of Channel 5 and its ratings skyrocketed
in the latter part of 2004, when it began broadcasting nonstop coverage of the
crowds thronging the center of Kyiv to protest against the rigging of the presidential
elections. All signifi cant players in the Orange Revolution agree that without Channel
5 the prospects for radical political change would have been severely limited.
In Georgia in 1994, businessman Erosi Kitsmarishvili co-founded and took a leading
role in running the Rustavi 2 television station, which originally began broadcasting
from two rooms in a local hotel. Following years of attempts to shut it down and
the assassination of high profi le news anchor, Georgy Sanaya, in 2001, the station
is credited with a pivotal role in the downfall of Eduard Shevardnadze in the Rose
Revolution of 2003. In Serbia, with Veran Matic’s B92 radio station having been
kicked off the airwaves, the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM),
which he also established, offered people in Serbia vital sources of information
leading up to the ouster of Slobodan Milošević in October 2000. In the lead-up to
radical change in Slovakia, private television and radio stations such as TV Markiza
and Radio Twist (Slovakia), ensured that the overwhelming bias of the state media
was effectively countered. In Croatia, Radio 101, which began operating under
communism, emerged as a crucial hub for independent voices under the Tuđman
regime, which controlled state television and radio, as well as three out of four
national newspapers.
In all of these countries, it was never a question of whether authoritarian incumbents
wished to suppress opposition voices. It was in the nature of the respective regimes
to want to do so. And, they all tried. The real question was whether they had the means
at their disposal to translate those wishes into practice. Presiding over economies,

which had been mostly privatized in the early to mid-1990s, the Ukrainian, Georgian,
Serbian, Croatian and Slovak authorities simply lacked the degree of control over
society to prevent someone, somewhere, from getting enough of a foothold to use
against them. There were too many people in these countries with enough fi nancial
resources for the authorities to stop all of them setting up a radio station here, a
newspaper there or a television station somewhere else.
Something similar, of course, applies to the role of opposition-minded business
people that funded civic groups and political parties in the run-up to elections. With
the exception of Ukraine, where oligarchs, millionaires and billionaires were, in high
profi le cases, publicly identifi ed with either the opposition or the incumbents, it is
not easy, and may even be impossible, to establish a defi nitive list of precisely which
people funded which political groupings. Lacking western style traditions of party
fi nancing, much that was done was covert and its extent and importance remains
diffi cult to verify. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence suggests that business people
sympathetic to regime change had some role to play, at least at the margins, as the
examples of Yulia Tymoshenko and Petro Poroshenko in Ukraine clearly illustrate.
The lessons that can be learned from such cases are far reaching and go to the
heart of the difference between what can and cannot be achieved by authoritarian-
minded regimes, depending on the structure of the economy they preside over.
Mainly privatized, market economies dissipate economic power. Operating above
such an economic base, it is not possible for governments to affect total control
over society. They can, therefore, be authoritarian, but they cannot be totalitarian
because, by defi nition, it is impossible to wield total power, if an entire section of
society is run according to its own interests rather than those of the state.
The Belarusian Counter-Case
With this last thought in mind, once again the great counter example is, of course,
Belarus, where the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka successfully prevented
revolutionary change at elections in March 2006, and has done so for years. With
80 percent of the economy under state control and a private business elite that was
either totally beholden to the regime or too small to be signifi cant, the authorities in
Belarus found themselves capable of pushing dissident media outlets right to the
fringes of society.
But, the Belarusian case not only illustrates how important state control over the
media can be in preventing bad news getting through. It also, of course, shows how
total control over the media can be used to purvey regime propaganda in a manner
unavailable to the other regimes discussed in this book. And, it was precisely
his allegedly successful management of the economy that formed a key pillar of
Lukashenka’s claim to political legitimacy.
Robin Shepherd

As the Belarusian analyst Vitali Silitski put it in 2005, “Economic performance
has become one of the central points of offi cial propaganda. Real positive trends
(economic growth, the rise of real incomes, job security) are aggressively promoted
by the state controlled media and in the offi cial speeches without reference to the
price at which they had been achieved, whereas problem spots (extremely high retail
prices, the gap in wages between Belarus and its neighbors such as Lithuania or
Poland) are downplayed or ignored (…) propaganda presents Belarus as an ‘island
of stability in the sea of the storm’, working heavily to persuade the population that
any change of government would spell chaos and impoverishment”.
Of course, it is not simply its ability to control outlets of information that distinguishes
a mainly state owned economy from a mainly private economy in what otherwise
might be a potentially revolutionary situation. Lukashenka has also directly used
economic policy to provide subsidies and handouts to important sections of the
population with the explicit aim of turning them into clients loyal to his regime, a
task made considerably easier by the fact that most people in Belarus are state
employees. If the data are reliable, growth in wages (or rather, in the Belarusian
context, state ordered wage hikes) in recent years has been phenomenal. In 2000,
gross average monthly earnings rose on an annualized basis by 201 percent (infl ation
was 169 percent). In 2001, earnings grew by 109 percent (infl ation was 61 percent),
in 2002 by 54 percent (infl ation was 43 percent), in 2003 by 33 percent (infl ation
was 28 percent), in 2004 by 39 percent (infl ation was 18 percent) and 2005 by 35
percent (infl ation was 10 percent). The state has, therefore, raised real incomes
substantially over a sustained period. Even if there is justifi ed skepticism about the
reliability of the fi gures, most outsiders visiting Belarus do have the impression that
living standards have, in fact, been rising in recent years.
Clearly, a serious question mark remains as to whether this sort of blatantly populist
economic policymaking is sustainable in the long-term when there is usually
a large and painful price to be paid. As the European Bank for Reconstruction
and Development said of Belarus in its 2005 Transition Report, “ (…) long-term
growth prospects remain bleak unless fundamental market-oriented reforms are
implemented. (…) Also, excessive dependence on Russia as the main export market
and cheap energy supplier is a major source of vulnerability”.
But, in the short-term, it is clear that a state controlled economy has the ability to
“purchase” substantial public support to a degree that is not possible in economies,
which have been largely privatized. Moreover, the key is not simply that people
experience a direct rise in real wages. It is also important that they associate the
rises in real wages directly with the regime. Lukashenka is not just the president of
Belarus, he has effectively made himself the boss of most of the country’s workers.
5 Vitali Silitski, “Internal Developments in Belarus”, in: Changing Belarus, Chaillot Paper no. 85
(EU Institute for Security Studies, Paris, 2005), p. 36.

He calculates that if he treats them well, perhaps a little strictly, but with generosity,
they will be loyal to him. It is a calculation that, at least for now, may be paying off.
Belarus is a country to watch for many reasons. But, since the regime has made
economic and social stability such a central item in its bid for the people’s loyalty,
it will be fascinating to watch what happens if there is an economic downturn or
an outright crisis. Problems in that regard may be just around the corner. Russia,
which currently subsidizes Lukashenka’s regime to the tune of billions of dollars a
year in cheap gas exports has recently forced Belarus to accept substantial price
rises, more than doubling the 2006 price in 2007. Gazprom, Russia’s monolithic gas
company, has said it will be pushing for further substantial price rises in the coming
years. This could have devastating consequences for Lukashenka’s popularity base.
It may turn out to be a highly illuminating test case.
The central problem of postcommunism was well encapsulated in the early 1990s
in the phrase “multiple-transition”. Governments were charged with the task of
moving away from totalitarian systems, had to build market economies and liberal
democracies and, in many cases, had to redefi ne nationhood. They had to fi ght on
several different fronts at once.
Such governments can be broadly divided into two camps: those that tried and
those that did not. The countries surveyed in this book fall into the second category,
of which, there are further subdivisions. In one form or another, however, they are
rightly described as “neo-authoritarian”.
The role of the economy in promoting or restraining change is hard to defi ne, as
discussed in the fi rst part of this chapter outlining the broad macro-economic context.
The role of some parts of the economy, most obviously the media, is somewhat
easier to grasp. It is also clear that the size and strength of the private economy
may well be highly relevant, both in terms of the kind of economic ownership issues
which separate Belarus from the rest, and also in the more general sense that a
largely privatized economy spreads power through society in a manner that even
neo-authoritarian governments fi nd diffi cult to control.
The number of issues up for discussion is almost limitless. One widely talked about
issue is the extent to which young, aspiring middle classes, usually based in the
capital cities overcame older, more rural citizens to help effect political change. It
appears to have been signifi cant in most cases. But, separating the political and
cultural ambitions of such young, urban citizens from their economic and social
ambitions is diffi cult. Many young people active in the opposition movements were
convinced that their countries should join the European Union. Did they want this
Robin Shepherd

because they believed that would help cement democracy or because they thought
it would make them richer? In all probability they hoped the answer would be both.
Perhaps the most sensible conclusion borne out by this brief survey is that it is only
really possible to asses the role of the economy in association with all the other
factors that were also present. Strong analysis is more likely to be multi-disciplinary
and focused on individual cases rather than generalities. The economy matters,
because in all countries, revolutionary or not, postcommunist or not, the material
side of life infl uences ordinar y people’s sense of well-being. It also matters because
its structure helps defi ne power relations within society. But, anyone looking for
simple cases of cause and effect, generalized patterns or unshakeable conclusions
about how this or that economic factor led to this or that political outcome, is likely
to be disappointed.

Ta r a s Ku z i o
The democratic breakthroughs that took place from 1998 to 2004 in Slovakia,
Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine constituted a second and fi nal stage of their
transformation as postcommunist states. All fi ve countries experienced national
revolutions that prevented them from simultaneously pursuing nation-state building
and democratic consolidation in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of
communism. After the dissolution of the Czechoslovak state, Slovakia had to come
to terms with being independent and with the challenge of co-existing with a large
Hungarian minority. Croatia’s war of independence monopolized the fi rst half of the
1990s and the threat from Serbia only receded after the retaking of the Krajina
in 1995. From 1988 to 1999, Serbia was dominated by Slobodan Milošević and
his plans for a greater Serbia that were at the origin of unprecedented war crimes
and chaos in the former Yugoslavia, policies that unleashed NATO’s bombardment
of Serbia in 1999. Georgia entered the post-Soviet era dominated by ethnic
nationalism, leading to civil war and the loss of two separatist enclaves. Ukraine
was key to the dismantling of the USSR in 1991, with 91 percent of Ukrainians
voting for independence in a referendum. But, national independence came without
democracy, with the state being hijacked until 2004 by the former “sovereign
communists”, turned centrists, under Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma.
Therefore, the OK ‘98 campaign was perceived by the Slovak democratic opposition
as postcommunist Slovkia’s chance to complete the Velvet Revolution and to remove
Vladimír Mečiar’s populist nationalism that dominated until 1998. The Croatian
opposition also sought to distance themselves from the nationalist 1990s in favor
of a “return to Europe” through domestic democratic reform. Georgia’s opposition
sought to overcome the effects of a failed and dismembered state, deeply affected
by stagnation under the government of Eduard Shevardnadze. Georgian analyst,
Ghia Nodia, believes that, “our revolution in 2003 reminded us of the Eastern
European revolution of 1989” when a new generation of non-communist elites came
to power.
1 A similar sense of the unfi nished permeated Ukraine’s Orange Revolution
that, for its leaders and supporters, represented the democratic conclusion to the
national revolution of 1991.
This chapter is divided into two sections. The fi rst section analyses ten causal factors
that contributed to the democratic breakthroughs and revolutions that took place in
1 Interview with Ghia Nodia by Robert Parsons in RFE/RL Features, June 15, 2005.

Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. These factors differ in their degree
of intensity for each of the fi ve countries. It is noteworthy, however, that the absence
of all or some of these factors will prevent successful democratic revolutions from
taking place elsewhere in the post-Soviet space. The second section discusses
developments in the fi ve countries under consideration in the aftermath of their
democratic breakthroughs.
Causal Factors in the Democratic Breakthroughs
of the Fourth Wave
Ten factors have been important for the success of the democratic breakthroughs
and revolutions that have taken place in postcommunist states. These include a
competitive (i.e. semi-) authoritarian state facilitating space for the democratic
opposition, “return to Europe” civic nationalism that assists in civil society’s
mobilization, a preceding political crisis, a pro-democratic capital city, unpopular
ruling elites, a charismatic candidate, a united opposition, youth politics, regionalism
and foreign intervention. The latter two have both hindered and supported democratic
breakthroughs, depending on the country in question and the foreign actor.
2 These
causal factors are examined in the following considerations.
A competitive authoritarian regime
The replacement of authoritarian regimes in Slovakia (1998) and Croatia (1999
to 2000), and democratic revolutions in Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003) and
Ukraine (2004), occurred in fi ve countries that can be classifi ed as “competitive
authoritarian”, with hybrid regimes combining elements of both authoritarianism
and democracy.
3 A s Sili t s k i d e mo n s t r a te s in hi s c o n t r ib u t i o n to t hi s vo lume, S l ov ak i a
and Croatia exhibited some similarities to Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, in which civil
society mobilized to get out the vote and prevent election fraud.
2 McFaul lists seven factors: a semi-authoritarian regime, an unpopular leader and regime, a
united opposition, the perception of a falsifi ed election, some degree of independent media,
the ability of the opposition to mobilize and divisions in the security forces; see Michael McFaul,
“Transitions From Postcommunism”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 16, no. 3 (July 2005), pp. 5-19.
3 Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism”, Journal of
Democracy, vol. 13, no. 2 (April 2002), pp. 51-65; Lucan A. Way, “The Sources and Dynamics of
Competitive Authoritarianism in Ukraine”, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics,
vol. 20, no. 1 (March 2004), pp. 143-161.
4 See the special issue of Communist and Post-Communist Studies (guest edited by Taras Kuzio),
vol. 39, no. 3 (September 2006) on “Democratic Revolutions in Post-Communist States”. On
Serbia, see Damjan de Krnjević-Misković, “Serbia’s Prudent Revolution”, Journal of Democracy,
vol. 12, no. 3 (July 2001), pp. 96-110.; on Georgia, see Charles H. Fairbanks, “Georgia’s Rose
Revolution”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 15, no. 2 (April 2004), pp. 110-124; on Ukraine, see Taras
Kuzio, “Kuchma to Yushchenko: Ukraine’s 2004 Elections and ‘Orange Revolution’”, Problems of
Post-Communism, vol. 52, no. 2 (March-April 2005), pp. 29-44.

But, there were also three crucial differences. First, the Slovak and Croatian regimes
did not orchestrate mass election fraud and did not plan to refuse to recognize a
victory by the democratic opposition. The absence of these two factors, in turn,
meant there was no need for the opposition and civil society to organize street
protests, culminating in a revolution. In Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, these two
factors (election fraud and unwillingness to accept opposition victory) were present
and instrumental in leading to democratic (or electoral) revolutions. Second, the
Slovak and Croatian regimes were thought unlikely to use violence to suppress the
opposition or crush street protests. In Slovakia under Vladimír Mečiar, the security
forces were certainly involved in illegal activities against the opposition and in
Croatia, some elements of the internal security forces may have participated in the
war of independence in 1991 to 1995 or in war crimes. But, in Serbia and Ukraine,
the bloated internal security forces engaged in serious crimes and violence. In the
case of Serbia, the security forces committed war crimes in neighboring territories.
In Ukraine, they committed violence against journalists and opposition leaders. In
Georgia, Serbia and Ukraine, the ministries of the interior all had strong links to
organized crime. In Ukraine, hard-line elements in the security forces may have
received encouragement from Russia during crises. Third, external factors played
a different role in all fi ve cases, with the EU playing a positive role in Slovakia and
Croatia, encouraging a democratic breakthrough with the “carrot” of membership, a
factor which was absent in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. In Georgia and Ukraine the
main external factor was Russia, which played a negative role. In Georgia, Russia’s
interference served to freeze the confl icts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In Ukraine,
Russia intervened massively in the 2004 presidential elections.
The presence of competitive authoritarian regimes had profound implications for
the potential of success of the democratic opposition in elections in all fi ve cases
and of the success of democratic revolutions following rigged elections in Serbia,
Georgia and Ukraine. Competitive authoritarian regimes provided space for civil
society, a limited number of media outlets and international organizations to freely
operate in the country. Further, they provided space for the existence of a democratic
opposition and their access to participation in state institutions (i.e. parliament and
local government). Such regimes are, nevertheless, vulnerable during elections and
succession crises and they can tip towards a democratic breakthrough, as was the
case in the fi ve countries treated here.
However, regimes can also shift in the direction of authoritarian consolidation.
In this case, the democratic opposition will fi nd it diffi cult to bring about a
democratic breakthrough, and when such a regime commits election fraud, the
democratic opposition’s efforts to mobilize the protest potential of citizens are
likely to be thwarted. Aside from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, which Freedom
House classifi ed as “transitional governments” or “hybrid regimes”, the remaining
nine Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) states are classifi ed as “semi-
Taras Kuzio

consolidated authoritarian” or “consolidated authoritarian” regimes 5. Attempts at
launching democratic revolutions in protest at election fraud in Belarus, Azerbaijan,
Armenia and Uzbekistan have failed due to the weakness of the democratic
opposition and because the regimes in question did not hesitate to use violence
and to engage in repression against the opposition, the most notorious case of
which took place in Andijan in Uzbekistan in May 2005.
“Return to Europe” civic nationalism
“Return to Europe” civic nationalism mobilized the democratic opposition and
civil society in Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, particularly, young
people. In Slovakia and, to a lesser extent, in Croatia, the EU actively encouraged
democratic breakthroughs by proffering the “carrot” of future membership. The civic
nationalism of the democratic opposition in Slovakia and Croatia competed with the
regimes’ own brand of extreme right or populist nationalism. In Slovakia, the Mečiar
leadership built an authoritarian-populist regime whose nationalism was directed
not at “returning to Europe”, but against the Czechs and the country’s Hungarian
minority. During the 1990s, Croatia was dominated by the political regime of Franjo
Tuđman, built on extreme right nationalism that partially drew its inspiration from
the World War II Ustaša Nazi puppet state. A central demand of the EU was for
Croatia to cooperate with the International War Crimes Tribunal, a demand that the
democratic opposition, once in power, fulfi lled to some degree.
In Serbia, the democratic opposition associated the break with the Slobodan
Milošević regime as returning Serbia to its rightful European path, to which Yugoslavia
had strong connections, as a communist state outside the Soviet empire. Yugoslavs
were able to travel and work in Europe and the rest of the outside world, during
a period in which this was unthinkable for most of those living inside the Soviet
empire. In Georgia and Ukraine, “return to Europe” civic nationalism developed on
the basis of the dream of becoming integrated into transatlantic structures and of
departing from the vacuous, fl uctuating and unclear multivector foreign policies of
the Shevardnadze and Kuchma eras.
In the case of these counties, though, the EU was not as generous and membership
was not part of the equation. Nevertheless, Viktor Yushchenko’s opposition political
platform supported a pro-European orientation for Ukraine that built on a national
identity situating Ukraine in “Europe” and outside Eurasia. But, in Ukraine “return to
Europe” civic nationalism was not uniformly strong across the country, being weaker
in Eastern Ukraine, where the Orange Revolution found little support. In Georgia, the
ethnic nationalism of the early 1990s, during which Zviad Gamsakhurdia briefl y ruled
the country, was replaced by Georgian opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili’s civic
nationalism. In the meantime, Saakashvili has worked to rebuild trust in the state
and its institutions among Georgians and “to inject national pride [in the citizenry] 5 See Freedom House, Nations in Transit surveys, available at

without making it ethnic pride”. 6 He emphasized state symbols such as the national
anthem and the state seal, and changed the national fl ag, a highly popular move.
Different types of nationalism can be used to establish a democratic regime and to
promote the country’s “return to Europe” or to institutionalize an authoritarian regime
and to turn the country’s back on Europe. Two other types of nationalism (Soviet and
Great Power) are supportive of the establishment of authoritarian regimes that are
not interested in returning their countries to Europe. In Belarus, the Soviet nationalism
exhibited and institutionalized by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, has a stronger support
base than the discourse of “return to Europe” civic nationalism promoted by the
democratic opposition led by Alaksandar Milinkievič. In Russia, Vladimír Putin has
successfully marginalized the democratic opposition and promoted a Great Power
nationalism that combines Soviet, Tsarist and Eurasian symbolism.
A preceding political crisis
The nature of competitive authoritarian regimes inevitably produces an unstable
political environment that has the potential to tip either toward a democratic
breakthrough or authoritarian consolidation. Prior to the crucial elections there were
scandals and crises of varying kinds in Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine.
The use of violence, kidnapping and murder against citizens led to a growing wave
of protest and a real desire to stop the incumbent in Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine
from further consolidating the authoritarian regime. In Croatia, the Tuđman regime
was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs and other war crimes during the war of
independence. The Milošević regime lost three nationalist wars in Slovenia, Bosnia
& Herzegovina and Kosovo, committing untold atrocities. Serbia’s intervention in
Kosovo in 1999 led NATO to bomb Belgrade, a prelude to the democratic revolution
a year later under the opposition slogan “Gotov je” (He’s fi nished!).
In Georgia, Shevardnadze’s decade in offi ce led to stagnation, with a large part
of the economy pushed underground, where organized crime ruled. Two frozen
confl icts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia were ignored, while Adjara was granted de
facto autonomy in exchange for political loyalty. In Ukraine, the “Kuchmagate crisis”
of 2000 to 2001, when recordings proved that President Kuchma had authorized
violence against opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze became the precursor to
the Orange Revolution. Although this scandal did not lead to Kuchma’s downfall,
it triggered the Ukraine Without Kuchma and Arise Ukraine! opposition protests of
2000 to 2003 and severely undermined the legitimacy of the ruling elites, discredited
Kuchma, created a hard-core group of opposition activists and awakened young
people from their political apathy.
A democratic capital city
Unlike in authoritarian systems, competitive authoritarian regimes do not
completely marginalize the democratic opposition. In the time before the democratic
6 Interview with Ghia Nodia by Robert Parsons, RFE/RL Features, June 15, 2005, op cit.
Taras Kuzio

breakthrough, the democratic opposition will have been elected to local governments,
gained control of mayoral offi ces and seats in the parliament. These local institutional
bases of support were important springboards for launching democratic challenges
to competitive authoritarian incumbents in Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and
Ukraine. The National Movement-Democratic Front (EM-DP) won control of Tbilisi
City Assembly in June 2002 and its leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, became chairman.
In Ukraine, Kyiv’s Mayor, Oleksandr Omelchenko, had long been sympathetic to
Yushchenko, while Kyivites have consistently voted for reformers and the opposition
in successive elections since 1994. The sympathetic attitude of Kyiv’s residents and
its city authorities was crucial to the success of the Orange Revolution. Revolutions
traditionally begin in capital cities and a supportive city population and politicians
are, therefore, strategically important to their success.
Unpopular ruling elites
The Kuchmagate crisis in Ukraine served to undermine the commonly held view
in post-Soviet states that the leader is not at fault, but rather those around him,
a syndrome commonly referred to as “good Tsar, bad Boyars”. While Kuchma
successfully defl ected the blame for the 1999 elections, he was unable to following
the Kuchmagate crisis. In countries where the “good Tsar, bad Boyars” syndrome still
functions, such as Russia and Belarus, the chances for a democratic breakthrough
are slim. An unpopular incumbent, unable to defl ect blame onto his “Boyars”, provides
the incentive for a democratic opposition to unite, becoming a target on which the
opposition can focus their energy. Putin and Lukashenka remain popular because
the populations under their control do not blame them directly for their country’s
problems and no major scandals have besmirched their reputations. Democratic
breakthroughs and revolutions took place in Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and
Ukraine where there was an unpopular incumbent and a popular opposition.
The Mečiar regime in Slovakia exhibited similar characteristics to those found in
hybrid regimes, such as Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. These included an
executive seeking to concentrate its power, statist economic policies, no separation of
the ruling party of power from the state, clientelism during privatization, interference
in the media and attempts to marginalize the opposition. A sense of urgency
developed: the authoritarian entrenchment of the regime had to be avoided. Two
fears fuelled this sense of urgency. First, there was fear that if Mečiar’s HZDS won
the 1998 elections, Slovakia would move towards consolidated authoritarianism.
Second, there was fear that such a trend would irrevocably harm Slovakia’s chances
of joining the EU and NATO.
During the 1990s, Croatia was dominated by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)
and Franjo Tuđman. HDZ claimed credit for Croatia’s successful war of independence,
maintaining the country’s territorial integrity and putting paid to the Serbian threat.
This nationalist success made it diffi cult for the democratic opposition to challenge
the Tuđman-HDZ regime, which regularly accused it of treason and of being in the

pay of the United States. Accusations of being an American puppet were also made
against Yushchenko in the 2004 elections in Ukraine. The retaking of the Serb
enclave of Krajina in 1995 removed the Serbian minority as a threat that could rally
Croatians around the HDZ, in the same way as Mečiar had successfully used the
Hungarian minority to bolster support for the HZDS in Slovakia. The death of Tuđman
in 1999, on the eve of the January 2000 elections, therefore, proved fortuitous for
the democratic opposition. The removal of Tuđman from Croatian politics opened up
divisions in the HDZ between hardliners and softliners over the need for continued
nationalism versus the acceptance of democratization as a precondition for EU
membership. The democratic opposition was also divided over whether to cooperate
with, or oppose, HDZ.
Such divisions plagued the democratic oppositions in all fi ve countries. In Ukraine,
Yushchenko was loyal to Kuchma until April 2001, when his government was sacked.
After that, he created Our Ukraine as a “constructive” (i.e. loyal) opposition force that
vacillated between cooperating with the anti-Kuchma opposition (grouped in the
Ukraine without Kuchma and Arise Ukraine! movements) and cooperation with pro-
Kuchma political forces. Calls to rally around the head of state can attract support
on the right of the democratic opposition, often willing to temporarily sacrifi ce
democratization in exchange for nation-state consolidation.
Shevardnadze’s For a New Georgia bloc, which had been hastily created after his
Union of Citizens of Georgia disintegrated in summer 2001, began to fall apart after
the November 2002 elections, thereby, creating a crisis within the Georgian ruling
elite. Kuchma’s For a United Ukraine bloc, which came second to Our Ukraine in the
2002 elections, disintegrated a month into the newly elected parliament. Georgia
and Ukraine are examples of the failure of competitive authoritarian regimes to
establish ruling parties of power. On the other hand, in Slovakia and Croatia, HZDS
and HDZ failed in their bids to monopolize power.
Ukraine’s ruling elites entered the 2004 elections disunited and unsure about the
post-Kuchma era with many within the Kuchma camp unsympathetic to Yanukovych.
They, therefore, either sat on the fence or unoffi cially backed the Yushchenko
campaign. During the Orange Revolution, parliament issued a resolution refusing to
recognize the offi cial central election commission’s decision to declare Yanukovych
victorious. Parliament also voted no confi dence in the Yanukovych government.
By contrast, in authoritarian regimes, such as Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan,
the incumbent remains popular, while the democratic opposition is marginalized
through what Silitski terms “preemptive strikes” or “preemptive authoritarianism”.
Democratic breakthroughs and revolutions are impossible in countries with popular
incumbents and marginalized oppositions.
7 Vitali Silitski, “Preempting Democracy: The Case of Belarus”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 16, no.
4 (October 2005), pp. 83-97.
Taras Kuzio

A charismatic opposition candidate
In Slovakia, Croatia and Georgia, the need for a charismatic opposition leader proved
less important, as their democratic breakthroughs occurred during parliamentary
elections. In Georgia, presidential elections followed the Rose Revolution and led
to the sweeping victory of Saakashvili with 96 percent of the vote. His charisma
certainly played an important role in the success of the Rose Revolution, his election
and continued popularity. In Serbia, Vojislav Koštunica’s popularity lay less in his
charisma than in the fact that he could appeal to both camps. On the one hand, he
appealed to the opposition because he was not corrupt and was not associated with
the Milošević regime. On the other hand, for the softliners in the Milošević regime
his moderate nationalist credentials made him a safe candidate. In this manner,
Koštunica played a similar role to Yushchenko in Ukraine, whose candidacy assured
softliners in the Kuchma regime, a role that the more radical Tymoshenko could not
have played.
A charismatic candidate who does not have a past visibly marred by corruption is
vi t al. I t provide s the opp o si tion wi th a fi gure around which to uni te. And, i t g ive s hop e
to voters that not all politicians are “corrupt”, a view commonly held in postcommunist
states. Opinion polls in postcommunist states regularly show that voters believe
that politicians are only interested in self-enrichment, not in voters’ rights or the
country’s national interest. In Ukraine, public opinion polls conducted in 2003 to
2004 pointed to only two politicians with high moral standing, Yushchenko and
Socialist leader Oleksandr Moroz. As a moderate and positively received candidate,
Yushchenko was assisted by his main opponent, Yanukovych, providing a negative
counterpoint. Yanukovych’s criminal record, the widespread perception of Donetsk
as a “Wild West” where everything goes, his low level of education and rough
personality haunted him throughout the 2004 elections. Ukrainian youth NGO’s
learned from their Slovak, Croatian and Serbian counterparts that using humor and
political theatre to satirize leaders with a dubious reputation would help to break
down fear of the regime among voters.
A united opposition
A united opposition shows voters that politicians can rise above narrow personal
interests and unite around a concrete election platform. The oppositions in all
fi ves states were disunited throughout the 1990s. Only during the political crises
on the eve of the democratic breakthroughs did the opposition unite, often after
pressure from youth NGOs, civil society and, in the case of Slovakia and Croatia,
with the assistance of the EU. This contrasts with authoritarian regimes, in which
the democratic opposition is marginalized, imprisoned or in exile and, therefore,
unable to mount a serious challenge to the regime.
The Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) united in 1997 around four main democratic
parties and aligned with the Civic Campaign OK ‘98 that brought together 35 NGOs.
In Croatia, six opposition parties met in September 1998, creating two opposition

coalitions to take on HDZ. These were backed by the broad based NGO coalition called
GLAS 99, whose strategy drew on the success of the Slovak OK ‘98 campaign. The
Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) united 18 parties and several NGOs which,
hitherto, had not cooperated, with the major fault line running between radicals and
moderates, a division common to democratic coalitions in postcommunist states
who are united more by what they oppose than by what they suppor t. In Georgia, the
opposition united around the EM-DP during the Rose Revolution, which merged into
the United National Movement. There was little opposition to the EM-DP from pro-
Shevardnadze political forces, unlike in Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia and Ukraine.
You t h p oli t ic s
As discussed by Bunce and Wolchik in their contribution to this book, young people
played a strategic role in democratic breakthroughs and revolutions in Slovakia,
Croatia, Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine.
8 They provided the human resources in
numbers for the NGO civic campaigns in all fi ve cases and encouraged established
politicians to overcome their differences and unite into democratic opposition
coalitions. These young people are the generation that grew up in the 1980s and
1990s and that were least infl uenced by communist and Soviet political culture. The
1998 (Slovakia), 2000 (Croatia, Serbia), 2003 (Georgia), 2002 and 2004 (Ukraine)
elections were the fi rst occasions when this younger generation emerged as a
serious actor in domestic politics.
Young people had already developed their political skills during preceding political
crises, during which they learned from mistakes and honed their organizational
skills. The mass civic mobilizations in the 1998 Slovak and 2000 Croatian and
Serbian campaigns were diffused to Georgia and then Ukraine through shared
training, publications and internet discussions, often with the assistance of western
foundations and think tanks. Young people were most adept at using modern
communication tools, such as the Internet (for email communication, as a source
of news and as a discussion platform) and mobile phones (communications, SMS,
camera-phones). Besides the Internet, domestic cable and international television
played an important role in breaking the state’s monopoly on information and in
mobilizing voters.
In all fi ve states, youth created movements that took the initiative to mobilize civil
society. The most well known are OTPOR, KMARA and PORA in Serbia, Georgia
and Ukraine, respectively. In addition to these well known NGOs, others focused
on election monitoring, mobilizing students for civil society activities, strikes and
monitoring the media. Polls and surveys in the region showed that youth tended to
be pro-western and sympathetic to democratic values.
8 See also Taras Kuzio, “Civil Society, Youth and Societal Mobilization in Democratic Revolutions”,
Communist and Post-Communist Studies, vol. 39, no. 3 (September 2006), pp. 365-386.
Taras Kuzio

Regionalism can be both a contributing factor and an inhibitor in democratic
breakthroughs and revolutions. Mečiar, Tuđman and Milošević’s misplaced use of
ethnic nationalism was one factor that the democratic opposition, who espoused
an inclusive civic nationalism, opposed. In Georgia, Saakashvili’s civic nationalism
came after the disastrous ethnic nationalism of Gamsakhurdia that led to defeat
and frozen confl ict in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Regionalism in Ukraine is a two
edged sword. On the one hand, it inhibited a landslide victory of democratic forces
in the Orange Revolution. On the other, it continues to inhibit the monopolization
of power by potential autocrats either in power (as in the Kuchma era) or after they
return to power (as in the case of Yanukovych in 2006).
Slovakia’s Hungarian minority was used by HZDS and its nationalist allies to
mobilize nationalist-populist support. The democratic opposition promoted an
alternative inclusive civic nationalism that included the Hungarian minority. Ethnic
cleansing during the war of independence made Croatia a mono-ethnic state, with
the perceived domestic Serb threat being neutralized from 1995. Other than in the
region of Vojvodina, Serbia has few national minorities on its territory. Excluding
Kosovo, the Serb titular nation comprises 83 percent of the population. Many
democratic parties, such as Vuk Drašković’s Serbian Renewal Movement and
Koštunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia were in two minds about supporting the goal
of a greater Serbia, backing the inclusion of all Serbs in one state.
The democratic opposition in Georgia inherited a fractured and failed state. Two
regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, suffer frozen confl icts since the early 1990s.
Shevardnadze struck a deal with the leader of the Adjara region (where many
Georgian Muslims live), Aslan Abashidze, whereby he would provide political backing
for Shevardnadze in return for non-interference in corrupt and autocratic Adjara.
Abashidze’s supporters were bussed into Tbilisi to back Shevadnadze during the
2003 elections. Shevardnadze further sought to maintain power through mass
election fraud in Adjara, where the Democratic Revival Union won 95 per cent of the
vo te in t he 20 03 ele c t ion s . In Ukr aine, an unof fi c i al ag re ement al s o ex i s te d b e t we en
Kuchma and leaders in Donetsk, such as Renat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s wealthiest
oligarch. Kyiv would turn a blind eye to how local elites ran their fi efdoms in exchange
for political and territorial loyalty. This loyalty was seen in the 2002 elections when
the pro-Kuchma For a United Ukraine bloc came fi rst only in Donetsk oblast. In all
other Ukrainian oblasts, Our Ukraine or the Communists came fi rst.
Of the fi ve countries where democratic breakthroughs and revolutions took place,
Slovakia is the most heterogeneous in ethnic terms and Ukraine is the most divided
regionally. Ethnic and regional divisions should not be overestimated, though.
Regional divisions, as in Ukraine, can lead to tension in the design of constitutions
and power sharing arrangements between the center and periphery, but do not
necessarily lead to violence. Ethnic divisions, as those present in Slovakia, however,

can lead to confl ict. The one evident similarity relates to voting preferences. In
Slovakia, only ethnic Hungarians vote for Hungarian parties. In Ukraine, voting
patterns in the 2004 and 2006 elections closely followed linguistic cleavages that
mirror regional divisions (i.e. Western-Central Ukrainian speaking regions voted
Orange, Eastern-Southern Russian speaking regions voted Blue).
Foreign intervention
Foreign intervention can be benign or negative. The former can take the form of
the EU intervening in support of the democratic opposition, as was the case in
these fi ve democratic breakthroughs and revolutions. The EU’s intervention was
particularly noticeable in Slovakia and Croatia, where it proffered the “carrot” of
membership. In Serbia, NATO played a positive role by “softening up” the regime
with the 1999 bombardment. This was followed a year later by U.S. support for the
Serbian democratic opposition. The intention of NATO and the U.S. was clear: to
remove Milošević from power. Russia and a minority of western newspapers alleged
that the democratic revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine were “U.S. conspiracies”, but
such allegations have never been substantiated.
Of the fi ve countries under consideration, the Russia factor has only played a role in
Georgia and Ukraine. Russia did not intervene in Slovakia, Croatia or Serbia, although
it tacitly backed the Mečiar and Milošević regimes. Russia also condemned NATO’s
bombing of Serbia. In Georgia, Russia chose to freeze the confl icts in Abkhazia
and South Ossetia, rather than to undertake peacekeeping operations and hold
negotiations on reunifying Georgia. The inhabitants of Abkhazia and South Ossetia
have been illegally granted Russian citizenship and in December 2006 the Russian
S t a t e D u m a c a l l e d f o r t h e u n i fi c a t i o n o f b o t h e n c l a v e s w i t h R u s s i a . R u s s i a i n t e r v e n e d
massively in the Ukrainian elections in 2004, providing political assistance and a
reported US$ 300 million to the Yanukovych election campaign. Russia was also
allegedly behind two of the three attempts on Yushchenko’s life (the September
2004 poisoning and the November 2004 bombing).
After the Democratic Breakthrough:
Main Problem Areas
Democratic breakthroughs as described in this book are never the end of the
democratization process. Once democratic oppositions enter government,
democracy requires further consolidation. In Slovakia and Croatia, the reform process
was quicker than in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. The speed of the reforms and their
success is related to legacies inherited by the new governments in each country,
as well as the availability of external incentives to overcome them. Four problem
areas have been central to developments following democratic breakthroughs in the
countries covered. These are examined in the following considerations.
Taras Kuzio

Dealing with the past
Dealing with the previous regime has proven diffi cult in many transition countries,
whether Spain following Franco, Chile following Pinochet or Greece following
the military junta. Most postcommunist states never undertook lustration or
condemnations of communism. In most CIS and some Central European states, the
former communist elites continued to govern after the collapse of the USSR. Dealing
with the inherited past has pre-occupied and divided the democratic opposition in
Serbia, Croatia and Ukraine, but not in Slovakia and Georgia. This may be because
the crimes and abuses of offi ce committed by Mečiar and Shevardnadze pale in
comparison to those committed by Croatian, Serbian and Ukrainian leaders.
Shevardnadze and Kuchma were granted immunity during the democratic revolutions
in Georgia and Ukraine. While, as Mason writes about Georgia, “[a]rresting offi cials
of the old regime and their cronies has been a hallmark of Saakashvili’s tenure”,
in Ukraine immunity seems to have been extended to other Kuchma era fi gures
and no senior offi cial has been put on trial. Issues that were particularly divisive
for the Orange Coalition after it came to power included the abuses of offi ce that
took place under the ancien regime, how to deal with those who are known to have
been involved in Gongadze’s murder, the treatment of the perpetrators of the 2004
election fraud and the reprivatization process involving oligarchs. Many members
of Our Ukraine, including Yushchenko, had been loyal to Kuchma for seven of his
ten years in offi ce and proved unwilling to back the prosecution of former Kuchma
regime offi cials. The unwillingness to charge the organizers of Gongadze’s murder
and the election fraud is linked to secret immunity deals made at the round table
negotiations during the Orange Revolution. The issue of reprivatization divided Our
Ukraine, which opposed the move, and the Tymoshenko bloc, which supported such
it. The question of who would be responsible (a corrupt court system or parliament)
for identifying cases for reprivatization was highly controversial.
Dealing with war crimes in the case of Serbia, or crimes against opposition
politicians and journalists in the case of Ukraine, is a test of the political will of the
president and the ability of law enforcement to prosecute. In Serbia and Ukraine, law
enforcement has failed the test. Koštunica and Yushchenko differ, however, in that
the former denied the crimes took place altogether, while the latter raised them in
the 2004 elections and Orange Revolution in his call for “Bandits to Prison”, only to
completely forget about them after being elected. Not a single criminal case against
former senior offi cials has made any progress in Ukraine. Most of those involved
in election fraud in 2004, in fact, were re-elected to parliament for the Party of
Regions in 2006.
9 Whit Mason, “Trouble in Tbilisi”, The National Interest (Spring 2005), p. 140.
10 See Anders Aslund, “The Economic Policy of Ukraine after the Orange Revolution”, Eurasian
Geography and Economics, vol. 46, no. 1 (July-August 2005), pp. 327-353.

Investigations into the assassination of Đinđić and the three attempts on
Yushchenko’s life in 2004 have also made little progress. Supporters of a “hard”
transition want to see a more radical break with the former regime that would include
punishment for crimes committed. On these issues Yushchenko, like Koštunica, has
lacked political will and revealed a preference for providing immunity. An opportunity
was missed immediately after the Serbian and Ukrainian revolutions to quickly deal
with the former regime. Serbia has demonstrated the danger of adopting the “soft”
transition, in that it permits the old guard the opportunity to regroup. Those who
committed war crimes under Milošević went on to assassinate Đinđić. In Ukraine,
the old guard regrouped after the implosion of the Orange camp in September 2005
and used public dissatisfaction and Orange in-fi ghting to win the 2006 elections.
Divisions in the democratic opposition
Slovakia and Georgia are the record holders for the once opposition-turned
government staying in power longest. Divisions between radicals and moderates
in these two states did not lead to open splits in the new governing coalitions.
The democratic opposition is inevitably split between moderates and radicals. In
Ukraine, the Orange Revolution coalition was dissolved by President Yushchenko in
September 2005 when he dismissed the Tymoshenko government. Georgia is the
only case where the democratic coalition has remained united and the moderate
and radical parties in the EM-DP, led by Speaker of the Parliament Nino Burjanadze
and President Mikheil Saakashvili, merged into a united party (the United National
Movement), an unusual occurrence in postcommunist states.
A major difference between Georgia and Ukraine has been in the type of leader that
came to power. While in Georgia, the radical wing of the Rose Revolution won the
presidency, in Ukraine a moderate took offi ce. Saakashvili’s victory in Georgia has
resulted in three post-revolutionary factors that are absent in Ukraine. First, it brought
to power an “extremely motivated, extremely impatient” group of young politicians.
Nodia points to Saakashvili’s “massive energy” in pushing forward reforms, yet the
drawback is that Saakashvili, like his Ukrainian equivalent, Yulia Tymoshenko, may
have “modernizing authoritarian instincts”.
11 Second, Saakashvili defi nes himself in
opposition to his predecessor, Shevardnadze, while the more moderate Yushchenko
has never criticized Kuchma after he was elected. The minimum his Orange voters
expected was a moral denunciation of the Kuchma regime, which Yushchenko failed
to deliver (the maximum would have been his trial for abuse of offi ce). This led to
widespread disillusionment among voters and their defection from Yushchenko to
Tymoshenko, as clearly seen in the 2006 election results.
12 Third, Saakashvili has
11 Interview with Ghia Nodia by Robert Parsons, RFE/RL Features, June 15, 2005, op cit.
12 See the two detailed surveys conducted in Ukraine by the International Foundation for Electoral
Systems (IFES) in April and November 2005. Both surveys are available at /
publications-detail.html?id=175 and /publications-detail.html?id=270.
Taras Kuzio

self-confi dence in his policies and actions domestically and abroad. The same is not
true of Yushchenko’s dealings with Russia, particularly in the energy sector.
Of the fi ve countries with successful democratic breakthroughs and revolutions,
Serbia and Ukraine demonstrate many similarities. Presidents Yushchenko and
Koštunica and former Prime Ministers Tymoshenko and Đinđić represent the split
between moderates and radicals in the Ukrainian and Serbian oppositions. Gordy
classifi es Koštunica as supportive of “soft transition”, while Đinđić backed the
“hard transition” approach,
13 with Yushchenko and Tymoshenko taking comparable
approaches to Koštunica and Đinđić, respectively. The difference between “soft”
and “hard” transition lies in the attitude taken to dealing and breaking with the
ancien regime.
Koštunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia and Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine lost popularity,
leading to the return to power of ancien regime parties (nationalists and socialists
in Serbia and the Party of Regions in Ukraine). President Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine
came third in the 2006 elections with only 13.95 percent, a major loss in comparison
to the 23.57 percent it received in the 2002 elections. Orange voters migrated from
Our Ukraine to the Tymoshenko bloc, which increased its support from 7.26 percent
in 2002 to 22.29 in 2006, giving it second place. Since the elections, Our Ukraine
has continued to decline in popularity, now having only eight percent of support, as
a result of negative public reaction to its failure in the coalition negotiations after
the 2006 elections. The Tymoshenko bloc’s continued popularity has prevented the
marginalization of Orange Revolution political forces, unlike in Serbia, where the
popularity of Đinđić’s Democratic Party has also declined.
The Orange Revolution coalition has not only been divided between the moderate
Our Ukraine and radical Tymoshenko bloc. Our Ukraine had always been a
“constructive” (i.e. loyal) opposition, with close ties to softliners in the Kuchma
regime. The Tymoshenko bloc and Socialists were at the root of the real opposition
to Kuchma during the Ukraine Without Kuchma and Arise Ukraine! protests of 2002
to 2003. In Our Ukraine there was also disagreement between national democrats
and business centrists. The former refused to consider any relationship with the
Party of Regions, while the latter preferred the Party of Regions to Tymoshenko.
The dual track negotiating strategy of Our Ukraine following the 2006 elections,
therefore, was not only the result of personal distaste for Tymoshenko’s return to
government, but also a refl ection of the existence of two wings inside Our Ukraine: the
pro-Tymoshenko national democrats and pro-Regions business centrists. Each wing
sought to negotiate its own parliamentary coalition, Our Ukraine-national democrats
with Orange allies and Our Ukraine-business centrists with the Party of Regions in a
Grand Coalition. Such a duplicitous and fractious strategy opened the space up to
allow for the return of the ancien regime in form of the anti-crisis coalition.
13 Eric Gordy, “Serbia After Djindjic. War Crimes, Organized Crime, and Trust in Public Institutions”,
Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 51, no. 3 (May-June 2004), pp. 10-17.

The return of former regime parties
Democratic breakthroughs in Slovakia and Croatia and democratic revolutions in
Serbia and Ukraine did not completely remove the partisans of the ancien regime.
This only took place in Georgia, where pro – Shevardnadze force s were routed without
the slightest chance of their return to power. In the other four countries, the ancien
regime retained a considerable base of support that enabled it to return to power
in either a reformed format, as in Croatia, or in a wholly unreformed format, as in
Serbia. In Slovakia, Mečiar’s HZDS and its nationalist allies re-entered government
after the 2006 parliamentary elections, albeit as junior partners.
Following a similar pattern, the democratic opposition in Slovakia, Croatia, Serbia
and Ukraine saw their coalitions disintegrate once the democratic breakthroughs
were achieved and the ancien regime was defeated. They were suffi ciently weakened
for the return of the partisans of the ancien regime to become credible candidates
in subsequent elections. Often this followed strategic policy mistakes on the part
of the democratic opposition and obvious disagreements between moderates and
In Slovakia, the 2002 elections marked the fi rst time that Mečiar’s HZDS received
fewer votes than the left or center-right, although it still received considerable
support with 29.8 percent. At the same time, the country had consolidated its
democracy suffi ciently for populist-nationalist forces to be unable to derail the
course of reform or accession to NATO and the EU. Comparably, in Croatia, softliners
in HDZ supported its transformation into a center-right conservative party, a process
similar to reformers from the Franco regime in Spain, who created the Popular Party
led by José María Aznar. The reformed HDZ returned to power in 2003, defeating
the center-left coalition that had been elected in 2000. Yet, this return to power has
not impeded Croatia’s democratic progress and its likely acceptance as a member
of NATO and the EU.
In Serbia and Ukraine, the ancien regime is more worrying. In Serbia, two pillars
of the Milošević regime, the Socialist and Radical Parties, continue to command
signifi cant popular support. The Radical Party won the December 2003 elections,
only nine months after Đinđić’s assassination and in spite of the fact that its leader,
Vojislav Šešelj, is on trial in The Hague for war crimes. In turn, in Ukraine, the former
pro-Kuchma and oligarch Party of Regions won the March 2006 elections with 32.14
percent of the vote. After the parties that had carried the Orange Revolution failed
to build a coalition, a so-called Anti-Crisis Coalition emerged with the Socialists and
Communists joining the Party of Regions under Prime Minister Yanukovych, whose
government has re-instated many senior members of the Kuchma regime.
In both Serbia and Ukraine, the ancien regime is a credible threat that could
potentially undermine democracy in the years to come. In Serbia, the extreme left
and right have a stable 30 to 40 percent of popular support and are more united
Taras Kuzio

than the country’s fractured democratic parties that led the democratic revolution in
2000. In Ukraine, the Party of Regions is the only former pro-Kuchma party to have
entered the 2006 parliament. The SDPUo, the party that provided for the creeping
authoritarianism of Kuchma’s last years in offi ce, failed to enter parliament. The
return of the Party of Regions poses two serious questions to Ukraine.
14 Firstly,
can the Party of Regions transform itself into a post-oligarchic and democratic
party? Such transformations have taken place in East-Central Europe and the
Baltic States, yet there has been no such case in any CIS country. Second, will the
return of Yanukovych to government lead to a reversal of the gains of the Orange
Revolution? Observers have pointed out, that “it would be wrong to conclude that
little has changed. Ukraine today is a different country from the timid nation that
existed before the Orange Revolution. There is a greater sense of freedom and a
stronger sense of national identity”.
15 While a reversal of these gains seems unlikely
as the Party of Regions has insuffi cient nationwide popularity to monopolize power,
stagnation in the democratic reform process is possible.
Serbia is facing very similar questions. But, Serbia has one distinct advantage over
Ukraine. EU membership, however distant, remains a prospect for Serbia and could
encourage democratic progress. Ukraine, in turn, is only being offered a free trade
agreement, following its accession to the WTO, and an enhanced agreement to
replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
The victories of the Slovak and Croatian democratic oppositions over competitive
authoritarian regimes in 1998 and 1999 to 2000, respectively, constituted real
democratic breakthroughs in both countries. Success in Slovakia’s democratic
reforms and the dismantling of the Mečiar legacy led to membership of NATO in 2002
and the EU in 2004. NATO invited Croatia into the Membership Action Plan in May
2002 and it may be invited to join NATO in 2008. Croatia is also likely to be invited to
join the EU any time soon, in contrast to Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. The latter three
countries, those that undertook more fully-fl edged democratic revolutions, have
more diffi cult legacies to overcome and are grappling with entrenched remnants of
the ancien regime.
Basic democratic freedoms, such as support for civil society, media freedom,
free elections, support for democracy over the alternative of authoritarianism,
are positive outcomes of the democratic breakthroughs and revolutions in all fi ve
countries. Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine have poorer records of democratic progress
14 See Taras Kuzio, “The Orange Revolution at a Crossroads”, Demokratizatsiya, vol. 14, no. 4
(Fall 2006), pp. 477-492.
15 Stefan Wagstyl, “Ukraine: Orange Revolution Gives Way to Reality”, Financial Times,
December 15, 2006.
16 See Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, “International Linkage and Democratization”, Journal
of Democracy, vol. 16, no. 3 (July 2005), pp. 20-34.

than Slovakia and Croatia, though. Slovakia is classifi ed in Freedom House’s 2006
Nations in Transit report as a “consolidated democracy”, whereas Croatia and
Serbia are defi ned as “semi-consolidated democracies”. Georgia and Ukraine are
c o n s i d e r e d t o b e “ t r a n s i t i o n a l ” o r “ h y b r i d ” r e g i m e s . Fr e e d o m H o u s e’s 2 0 0 6 Fr e e d o m
in the World survey upgraded Ukraine to “Free”, joining Slovakia, Croatia and Serbia,
while Georgia is classifi ed as “Partly Free”.
Democratization in Georgia and Ukraine has improved following their democratic
revolutions. Both countries hold free elections and enjoy free media. The interior
ministries in both countries, which had ties to organized crime and were involved
in illegal violence against regime opponents and journalists, have been cleaned
up. Freedom House’s 2006 Nations in Transit survey gives credit to Georgia for
enhancing local government capacity, launching a struggle against corruption and
improving the protection of human rights, but registered no change in Georgia’s
election administration, civil society, media and national governance. According to
Ghia Nodia, one of the reasons for the decline in civil society activity following the
Rose Revolution is that “half” of civil society moved into government. In Ukraine,
Freedom House registered a vastly improved media environment with an end to
censorship, greater transparency in government and state activities and policies
and a free election environment. Nevertheless, problem areas remain. Georgia
lacks a strong opposition, partly because of the high threshold to enter parliament
(seven percent) and the judiciary is subject to political interference. Political parties
in Georgia and Ukraine remain weak and tied to personality politics, rather than to
ideologies. This is especially true of the radical wing of democratic oppositions that
came to power in 2003 to 2004, including Saakashvili and Tymoshenko.
Democratization has proceeded faster in postcommunist states, which have
introduced parliamentary systems, commonplace in East Central Europe and the
three Baltic States. During postcommunist transitions, abuse of offi ce, election fraud
and corruption has tended to occur around the executive. Of the twelve CIS states,
ten have super presidential systems with emasculated parliaments. The exceptions
are a parliamentary-presidential system in Ukraine and a fully parliamentary system
in Moldova.
The victory of democratic oppositions in Slovakia and Croatia convinced their
leaders of the need to temper executive power, because it had been abused during
the Mečiar and Tuđman competitive authoritarian regimes. In 2000, Croatia moved
from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary system and from a bicameral into a
unicameral parliament. Round table negotiations during the Orange Revolution
led to a political compromise in the ruling elite that included three elements: an
unwritten agreement on immunity from prosecution, reform of the election law and
constitutional reform in 2006. The constitutional reforms transformed Ukraine from
17 See Freedom House Nations in Transit surveys, available at
Taras Kuzio

the 1996 semi-presidential system to a parliamentary-presidential republic, reducing
presidential powers, transferring them to the prime minister and introducing control
of government by parliamentary majorities, rather than by the executive.
Slovakia rejoined “Europe” relatively quickly after the 1998 democratic breakthrough.
This, in itself, demonstrated that Mečiar’s populist nationalism was more of an
aberration than a factor that could permanently derail Slovakia’s democratization.
Croatia has also quickly moved forward in capitalizing on its 1999 to 2000 democratic
breakthrough and is likely to accede to NATO and the EU within a few years.
Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine’s records are very mixed, though. EU membership, which
could be encouraging to democratic political forces in the face of still signifi cant
domestic support for the ancien regime, is only a real, even if distant, prospect for
Serbia. But, Serbia will not overcome the Milošević legacy quickly, as the extreme
left and nationalist right continue to have a strong base of support in the country.
In Georgia and Ukraine, democratization will be complicated by the absence of any
offer of EU membership and, in the case of Ukraine, by the return to power of the
Par t y of Regions, strongly as sociated with the ancien regime. Democratic freedoms,
free elections, independent media and political competition have all improved in
Georgia and Ukraine since their democratic revolutions, but both countries still face
major hurdles, especially in asserting the rule of law and in effectively eradicating
Internationally, Serbia is located in a neighborhood where most states are
consolidated democracies, a factor that could lead to democratic diffusion.
Geography does not comparably favor Georgia, which borders three authoritarian
states, including a large and threatening neighbor, Russia, that controls its two
separatist enclaves and opposes its integration into transatlantic structures and
only one democracy, that being Turkey. In fact, Georgia’s geography is its Achilles’
heel, making NATO membership likely, although not EU membership. Ukraine, in
turn, borders four NATO and EU member states, semi-democratic Moldova and
authoritarian Belarus and Russia. Thus, although not in the most advantageous
position, the democratic revolutions that took place in Georgia and Ukraine are,
nevertheless, testament to their desire to establish democratic societies that are
fi rmly embedded in Euroatlantic institutions.

Ivan Krastev
The beginning of the 21 st century was marked by an explosion of electoral revolutions
in Eastern Europe. A “bulldozer” revolution put an end to the criminal regime of
Slobodan Milošević in Serbia. The Rose Revolution changed the color of the political
regime in Georgia and the Orange Revolution brought an end to kleptocratic rule in
1 All three revolutions were nonviolent, liberal and pro-western. They looked
like the second coming of 1989.
The color revolutions captured the imagination of the West with the promise that
liberal democratic revolutions can even be successful in countries with troubled
pasts, post-confl ict presents and where institutions are weak and incomes low. At
the very moment the idea of liberal democratic revolution was both defeated and
discredited in the Middle East, true-believers of universal democracy found their
hopes fulfi lled and spirits lifted by events in Georgia and Ukraine. Georgia and
Ukraine were viewed as leaders of a new wave of democratic change in the world. The
anti-Syrian electoral revolution in Lebanon further strengthened this impression.
In the view of many democracy activists the only relevant questions were how many
more weeks in power Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk would survive and where the
next color revolution would take place. Political theorists and democracy activists
were convinced that color revolutions were a pattern for democratic change that
would spread all over Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Replicating color revolutions
was the winning strategy for the future.
At the time, these color revolutions were varyingly conceptualized as a) liberal
revolutions, b) EU inspired revolutions, c) NGO revolutions and d) a model for the
next generation of democratic revolutions. Two years on, all these ideas about color
revolutions require profound rethinking.
It could turn out that, in their nature, these color revolutions have more in common
with the recent populist revolutions in Latin America, than with the liberal revolutions
in Central and Eastern Europe of 1989. NGO-centric interpretations of the color
revolutions have so far tended to be a marriage of ideological convenience and
institutional self-interest, more than a fair refl ection on the real strength of the civil
society actors involved. And, the notion that color revolutions represent a model
of democratic change that can be replicated might not only be incorrect, but even
dangerous, if considering how to develop strategies for assisting democracy in the
post-Soviet space.
1 The “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan has suspiciously disappeared from the list of color
revolutions in the literature on the subject.

In accepting color revolutions as the new paradigm for democratic change, one
runs the risk of making the same mistake as when one universalizes Central
European political experience. It took the democratic community the failure in
Iraq, Hamas’ victory in Palestine and the wave of populist revolutions in Latin
America to see the obvious. The end of the Cold War and the emergence of pro-
western liberal democracies and market economies in Central Europe are events
that cannot simply be “replicated” in regions like the Middle East or Central Asia.
As Francis Fukuyama, the disillusioned prophet of “the end of history” bitterly
remarked in his latest book, “(…) the democratization of Central Europe was a
miracle. And, one can react to a miracle either by dramatically raising expectations
for a repeat-effect or by being grateful, pocketing one’s luck, and refl ecting on the
uniqueness of circumstance. Unfortunately, the democracy promotion community
shared the fi rst reaction, and tried to turn the miracle into a natural law”.
Is this mistake to be repeated? Is it not wiser to pocket one’s luck and to refl ect
on the uniqueness of circumstance when it comes to drawing lessons from the
color revolutions that have already taken place, instead of raising expectations of
repeat-effects? Has the music stopped playing, without the dancers realizing?
The central argument of this chapter is that in their nature color revolutions are
not liberal democratic revolutions. What has been witnessed in the post-Soviet
space was not a new wave of democratic revolutions, but the collapse of the
hybrid regimes that emerged out of the ruins of the partial democratization of
the 1990s. This collapse took the form of democratic breakthroughs in Georgia
and Ukraine, but it led to the consolidation of authoritarian trends in Russia and
Central Asia. The failure of the revolutionary strategy in the case of Belarus was
just the fi rst warning signal for the limits of the color revolution as a model for
breaking authoritarian regimes and promoting democracy.
In the view of this author, therefore, the real question is not where the next
color revolution will take place, but how the new post-revolutionary strategy for
democracy promotion in Eastern Europe should be articulated.
Liberal Revolutions?
What most political observers registered, but failed to emphasize suffi ciently,
was that color revolutions were revolts against semi-autocratic and not autocratic
regimes. In 1989 the people on the streets of Budapest and Prague demanded
free multi-party elections, freedom of speech and a free market economy. The
slogans on the streets of Tbilisi and Kyiv were different. They protested against
regimes that called themselves democracies, looked like democracies, but were
2 Francis Fukuyama, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative
Legacy (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2006), p. 67.

anti-democratic in their nature. These were regimes where citizens had the right
to vote, but the governments reserved for themselves the privilege of counting
the votes and announcing the results. Ukrainians and Georgians protested, not
against totalitarian regimes, but “democracy’s doubles”.
3 Disappointment and
disillusionment with postcommunist democratization from above was the major
underlying cause for the eruption of the protests.
Color revolutions had more in common with the wave of populist revolutions that
took place in Latin America than with the velvet revolutions of Eastern Europe. The
color revolutions expressed a strong desire for change, but not necessarily a desire
for more democracy, let alone more capitalism. The people on the streets of Kyiv,
unlike the people on the streets of Central Europe in 1989 (but, like populist voters
in Latin America today), were asking for the revision of the privatization process, not
for more privatization. They were fi ghting corruption, not communism. Democratic
ideals played only a limited role in mobilizing support for the color revolutions, whose
victors won power as opposition movements rather than as democratic movements.
As Michael McFaul has observed, their “main message was a cry of ‘Enough!’ hurled
in the face of the incumbent power-holders”.
Surprisingly, the similarities between Eurasia’s color revolutions and the recent
dramatic changes in Latin America have remained largely unnoticed or neglected.
Observers have been blinded by the fact that the Orange Revolution was led by a
free-market liberal like Yushchenko, while Latin America’s electoral revolutions have
been led by leftists sympathetic to Fidel Castro. The similarities between Ukraine
and Latin America were also obscured by the fact that anti-elite rhetoric in Ukraine
spoke in anti-Russian tones, while in Latin America anti-elitism speaks the language
of anti-Americanism.
But, regardless of these and many other differences, the color revolutions stand
closer to their Latin American relatives than to their Central European forebears.
Claims about fraud and not about the future were at the core of political discourse.
Ukrainian voters contested the fraudulent elections and, therefore, took to the streets
during the Orange Revolution. The angry electorates in Latin America protested not
only against the neo-liberals and their policies, but against the fraud and the “violin
politics” of the establishment. As José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain
once said, exercising power in Latin America during the last decade and a half has
been like playing a violin. One takes the violin with one’s left hand, but one plays it
with one’s right.
3 Ivan Krastev, “Democracy’s ‘Doubles’”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 17, no. 2 (April 2006), pp.
52- 62.
4 Michael McFaul, “Transitions from Postcommunism”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 16, no. 3
(July 2005), p. 16.
5 José María Aznar, “(…) leftist politics of Latin America is like playing the violin. You grab it
[the violin/power] with your left hand (…) and play it with your right”. See https://www.rgemonitor.
Ivan Krastev

The distinctive feature of the new politics is that the new populist majorities do not
have a clear project for transforming society. They are inspired, not so much by hope
as by a sense of betrayal. They are moralistic, not programmatic. They represent the
crisis of traditional political identities. In their view, social and political change is
possible only through a sea change in the elite. The absence of new ideas and of a
new vision for society has resulted in rising pressure to put new people into power.
The war cry of the new protest politics is Hugo Chavez’s electoral slogan: “Get rid of
them all!”.
The color revolutions, unlike the velvet revolutions, are not manifestations of the
victory of liberal ideas, but are symptomatic of the emerging tension between the
concept of people power and the representative institutions of liberal democracy. Like
the Latin American revolutions, the color revolutions represent protest against the
disempowerment of the people, but in a democratic context. They were revolutions
demanding democracy, at the same time as rejecting “the real-life democracy” they
experienced in the last decade. The populist nature of the color revolutions is at least
part of the explanation for the diffi culty the new leaders have had to consolidate the
revolutionary gains in the post-revolutionary period.
Today, two years after the Orange Revolution in Kyiv and seven years after the
anti-Milošević “bulldozer” revolution in Serbia, the time has come to face the
reality of post-Orange society. It is, of course, fair to say that Ukraine today is more
democratic than it was two years ago. There is a free and lively media environment,
the government is more accountable than ever before and the separation of powers
functions better than previously, but the euphoria that accompanied the revolution
and the hopes that it raised have dissipated. The popular mood ranges from despair,
anger and cynicism among the revolution’s supporters to confusion, disappointment
and disillusionment among the revolution’s opponents. Increasingly, Ukrainians are
giving up on all their leaders and treating their promises as empty. In geopolitical
terms, Kyiv is creeping back into Russia’s sphere of infl uence, while the reformist
momentum has slowed to a crawl.
Georgia, in contrast, is fi rmly anchored in the West and its government strives
for NATO and EU membership. But, the authoritarian tendencies in the Georgian
government are too obvious to be neglected and some NGO leaders claim that the
new government is less open to criticism than the “authoritarian regime” it has
overthrown. Serbia, for its part, has failed to reconcile its nationalistic past, and
while competitive political processes exist, illiberalism is on the rise.
Meanwhile, contrary to the colorful logic of revolutionary-minded democracy
promoters, Lukashenka in Minsk continues to survive, while Moscow has undergone

regime change in the opposite direction to that expected. As Jean Cocteau once
remarked, “Every revolution begins standing and ends seated”. 6
The Myth of the NGO Revolution
It is hard to understand what makes revolutions so engaging. The story unfolding
has been witnessed so many times before: excited crowds, vague slogans and
charismatic leaders fl icker on the television screen, in a familiar sort of heroic (melo)
drama. But, no one is ever prepared for the disappointment that follows. And, it is
always tempting to believe that what is being witnessed is a new kind of revolution.
The color revolutions were believed to be a new phenomenon, the “NGO revolution”.
Wikipedia, the bible of the information society, insists that color revolutions
“are notable for the important role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
and particularly student activist organizations in organizing creative nonviolent
7 The concept of civil society was as fundamental to the color revolutions
as the concept of the “third estate” was for the French revolution. The role played
by NGOs was deemed as important for the success of the color revolutions as that
played by the Bolshevik party in the success of the 1917 revolution in Russia.
“NGO revolutions are revolutions in the age of globalization and information. It is
meaningless to protest against this reality”, wrote Kremlin political technologist,
Sergei Markov, “(…) everybody who wants to take part in the politics of the 21
century has to create his own networks of NGOs and supply them with ideology,
money and people”.
8 NGOs have been conceptualized as the major protagonists of
political change in the new century. They are viewed as more important than political
parties, trade unions or charismatic political leaders. The question, however, is how
well-founded this NGO-centric interpretation of the color revolutions actually is.
The birth of the NGO-centric interpretation of the color revolutions was a happy
accidental encounter between ideological convenience and institutional self-
promotion. If one wants to be written about in history textbooks, it is necessary
to ensure that one has something to do with writing them. This is what the NGO
leaders did. They were not only among the leaders of the color revolutions, but
more importantly, they have been the most active interpreters of the events. They
were the ones fl uent in English and in democracy-speak. The anti-political mood,
prevailing in both East and West, has contributed to the success of this NGO-
centric interpretation. Political parties have been labeled as representatives of
special interests, whereas, the NGOs were the voice of civil society. And, in one of
6 Jeanne Fuchs, “George Sand: Notorious Woman, Celebrated Writer”, The Coast of Utopia, no.
43 (Fall 2006).
7 See /wiki/Color_revolutions, accessed on January 23, 2007.
8 Steve Gutterman, “Russia wants its NGOs to play stronger role in world affairs”, AP, March
13, 2006.
Ivan Krastev

those ironic twists of fate so dear to historians, the prominence of the NGO-centric
interpretation of the color revolution was achieved by the inadvertent collaboration
of democracy activists and Kremlin political technologists.
Western pro-democracy foundations were the salesmen of the NGO-centric
interpretation of the color revolution. For them, public acceptance of the critical
role played by the NGOs was also recognition of the critical role played by agencies
and foundations engaged in democracy assistance in bringing about democratic
change. In other words, western foundations cannot be considered disinterested
par ties, when it comes to the interpretation of the color revolutions. This is also true
for the academic centers affi liated to them.
The packaging of the color revolutions as NGO revolutions was also ideologically
convenient. The western-funded NGOs were the only openly liberal, pro-democratic
and pro-capitalist constituency in the revolution. NGO-centric interpretations of the
revolutions made it easy to argue for the primacy of the liberal nature of the political
change. The emphasis on the role and the potential of the NGOs as leading actors
in the democratic revolutions also drew attention to the transnational nature of the
political change in the context of color revolutions. It is no accident that political
theorists have devoted much more attention to the role played by the Serbian activists
that turned out in Georgia, or the Georgian activists that turned out in Ukraine, than
to the social inequality and ethnic tensions these societies demonstrated in the
run-up to their democratic breakthroughs. Marketing has overtaken Marxism when
it comes to defi ning the meaning of revolution. But, the revolutionary handbook
that was written on the basis of the experience of the color revolutions encourages
the democracy promotion community to seize the opportunity for change in places
where they lack local knowledge and genuine democratic movements are not
available. The existence of an unpopular semi-autocratic regime, splits among the
“guys with the guns”, an independent media, a unifi ed opposition, a civic sector
skillful in the art of popular mobilization and election monitoring capacities were
all classifi ed as factors suffi cient for the success of a liberal revolution. The new
mantra of democratic change has become “all we need is NGOs”.
Kremlin political strategists were the other fervent advocates of the view that color
revolutions were NGO revolutions. This version of events justifi ed their claims that
what the West called revolution, was, in fact, an electoral coup, a covert operation
designed and implemented by the western intelligence agencies and their NGO
based infrastructure behind the backs of postcommunist societies. NGO-centric
interpretations of the color revolutions perfectly fi tted the deep belief of the Kremlin’s
strategists in the primacy of political technologies over political representation.
The pages of this book provide a thorough analysis of NGO activity in each of the
countries in the run-up to and during their color revolutions. The case studies
provided document what the NGOs did, how they did it and why what they did was

important in the course of the revolutions. Nobody can credibly cast doubt on the
fact that NGOs were critical in articulating an alternative view of their societies,
in mobilizing the people, especially young people, and international solidarity for
the protestors on the streets of Eastern Europe. Their role in election monitoring
was also critical. The purpose of this chapter is not to cast aspersions on these
analyses. It would be a grave mistake to ignore the role of the NGOs in the success
of the color revolutions. But, the intention of this author is to question the belief that
NGOs are the central actor in opening up societies. It is this author’s conviction that
there is a clear tendency to overestimate the role of NGOs as agents of democratic
change and to overlook the limits of their infl uence. The strategy of overselling NGOs
can easily backfi re, by creating expectations that cannot be fulfi lled. Moreover,
there seems to exist a shared conviction that the importance of the role of NGOs
as actors in democracy promotion shall inevitably grow. This, however, contradicts
increasingly obvious signs that the NGO moment in democratic politics is in the
process of passing.
In the case of Eastern Europe, most of the politically active NGOs are not membership-
based organizations. As a rule, most of their funding comes from abroad and they are
much more liberal and pro-western than the mainstream of society. The attempt by
OTPOR and PORA to enter national politics in the aftermath of the color revolutions
in their countries ended in fi asco. These failures demonstrated the limits of NGO
infl uence. NGOs were important, but they were not the major protagonist of change.
What was consciously or unconsciously underestimated by the NGO-friendly analysts
was the power of nationalist and populist sentiments in any of these revolutions and
the importance of the role played by their political leaders.
The anti-elite and anti-political language that was critical for the popularity of NGOs
in the “long 1990s” has been captured by the populists. In other words, the rise
and success of populist parties and the populist agenda presents a direct challenge
to the public role of the civil society sector. Liberal ideas were very attractive to
societies that were fi ghting totalitarianism. But, in the age of failed democratization,
liberal NGOs are less attractive than the populist alternative. What liberals promise
is institutional change. What populists promise is revenge on incumbent political
elites. NGOs promote civic participation and deliberation as correction mechanisms
for the failures of democracy, while populists promise strong leadership and an
unmediated relationship between the leaders and the people.
The other factor contributing to the new context, in which pro-democracy NGOs
are forced to work, is the strategy of non-democratic forces adopting democracy
promotion rhetoric and creating their own NGOs as an instrument for promoting their
foreign policy agendas. The creation of Russia-dominated NGO networks, including
think tanks, media organizations and development centers, on the territory of the
post-Soviet republics, is an essential element of Russia’s new policy of domination
in the region.
Ivan Krastev

Rethinking Color Revolutions
Color revolutions were critical events in postcommunist Europe, but they were part
of a broader trend. What the advocates of “ the new wave of democratic revolutions”
thesis have failed to grasp is that the common factor in Eastern Europe was not a
new wave of democratization, but the collapse of the hybrid regimes that emerged
from the only partial democratization of the 1990s. The color revolutions led
to the opening-up of the hybrid regimes in Ukraine and Georgia, but the further
consolidation of anti-democratic tendencies of the regimes in Russia and the
countries of Central Asia is part of the same process. The preventive counter-
revolution designed by Moscow’s political strategists, is an essential part of the
legacy of the color revolution.
The Kremlin basically “agreed” with democracy theorists that hybrid regimes are
structurally unstable and are doomed to collapse. In Moscow’s view the color
revolutions embodied the ultimate threat: long-distance controlled popular revolt.
Putin’s preventive counter-revolution following the democratic breakthrough in
Ukraine marked a profound transformation in the managed democratic regime in
Russia. The change in Russia’s policy thinking as a result of the Orange Revolution
can only be compared to the change that occurred in American policy thinking as a
result of 9/11. Moscow‘s immediate response to the “orange threat” was to exert
total control over the media in Russia. At present, there is no single live political talk
show on the major TV channels in Russia.
The Kremlin also “agreed” with the democracy theorists’ analysis that splits in the
elite were a critical factor for the success of the revolution. In Russia, therefore,
the response has been the wholesale nationalization of the elite. The oil and gas
industries have been put under total government control. And, the Kremlin has
made it clear that fl irting with the opposition will not be tolerated. The new NGO
law adopted by the Kremlin and the creation of the Citizens’ Chamber were aimed
at establishing control over civil society. The receipt of “political money” from
abroad has been criminalized. More importantly, Russia has rejected the idea of the
legitimacy of international involvement in the protection of basic human rights. At the
same time, the Kremlin has made an effort to bring the NGO sector under control by
increasing the state money available to the third sector domestically and by drawing
a clear line between desirable and undesirable NGOs. Scared by the effi ciency of
the street protests and especially the political potential of student movements, the
Kremlin has shifted away from the politics of de-polarization and has created youth
groups trained to supply active support to the government (these include Nashi and
the Molodaya Gvardia). The development of the ideology of sovereign democracy is
the last element of Moscow’s preventive counter-revolution. Sovereign democracy is
meant to be the ideological justifi cation of the new regime that has been established
in Russia.

The last and most convincing argument for the “change of weather” in Russia is the
renewed taste for open repression of the more radical groups challenging the regime
that the government seems to have developed. Activists of “The Other Russia” have
been beaten and arrested. The message was unambiguous. The time of nonviolent
revolutions is over. The Kremlin has shown its readiness to use violence against its
enemies. The violent suppression of the pro-democracy riots in Uzbekistan was the
most powerful demonstration of this new trend.
The central argument of this chapter is that color revolutions, as important as they
were and as inspiring as they were, cannot serve as a model for further democratic
breakthroughs in Eastern Europe. The promotion of democracy in the region has
entered a new post-revolutionary stage. So, the real question is not “where next?”,
but rather “what next?”. A profound change in the geopolitical, ideological and
institutional contexts in which democratization efforts will take place is underway.
The war in Iraq and the rise of anti-Americanism has become a major obstacle
for the promotion of democracy. U.S. foreign policy is shifting towards “realism”.
What now matters for U.S. foreign policy are the foreign policies of other countries,
rather than their domestic policies. The famous visit of Dick Cheney to Eastern
Europe, during which he sharply criticized Russia’s backlash against democracy on
one day, and on the next, praised the democratic achievements of the even more
authoritarian regime in Kazakhstan, is representative of the new reality. “Double
standards” will no longer be just an “accusation” against the U.S. administration’s
approach to such issues. It will be the reality of its approach. This approach will fuel
anti-American sentiment and will make U.S.-supported democracy assistance much
more vulnerable to criticism and denunciation. At the same time, anti-Americanism
will be cynically used by non-democratic governments to discredit pro-democracy
groups. These groups will be less and less inclined to accept fi nancial support from
abroad for fear of losing their public legitimacy.
The emergence of the post-enlargement European Union is the other important
factor that will negatively affect not only the chances for the new wave of democratic
breakthroughs in Eastern Europe, but also the chances for the consolidation of
the post-revolutionary regimes. The color revolutions were the most powerful
demonstration of the European Union’s “soft power”. The democratic breakthrough
in Ukraine, particularly, has revealed an extraordinary paradox: that the European
Union is a revolutionary power with transformative power suffi cient to overthrow
non-democratic regimes at the same time as the majority of its member-states is
committed to preserving the status quo. But, at the same time the color revolutions
have shown that the EU’s soft power, its ability to mobilize and empower people, to
inspire their imagination, to affect change via civic example not superior physical
Ivan Krastev

force, itself derives from its soft, shifting, borders. The EU’s soft power lies in
the promise that “if you are like us, you could become one of us”. At the moment
when soft borders are replaced by hard borders the ability of the EU to inspire will
dramatically decline.
Further, the ideological context has changed. The anti-totalitarian liberalism
advocating for human rights, free market and the rule of law that was the ideological
hegemon of the 1990s is on the retreat. Societies in both Central and in Eastern
Europe are in an anti-transition mood. Nationalist and populist ideologies have
become worryingly popular among the voting publics. One can observe severe
attacks on liberalism and on representative democracy in some of the countries of
the region.
The institutional context has also changed. The war on terror has raised fears over
the power of non-state actors. Funding of civil society from abroad now meets
resistance in different parts of the world. And, the rise of populist parties directly
affects the legitimacy of NGOs. Populism, as a worldview, considers society to be
ultimately divided into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, “the pure people”
versus “the corrupt elite”, and argues that politics is the expression of the general
will of the people and that social change is pos sible only as a radical change of elite.
And, ironically enough in this case, liberal NGOs are widely viewed as members of
such elites, no matter how reluctant.
The western-supported NGO sector has lost its monopoly on “representing” civil
society. In Russia and other countries, a well-coordinated effort on the part of the
government to criminalize pro-democracy NGOs, on the one hand, and to promote
and fi nance a government friendly third sector, on the other, is underway. Both
the legitimacy and the room for maneuver of the pro-democracy civic sector have
“ N o t hing s e e m s h ar d e r t o un d e r s t an d ab o u t a g re a t revo lu t i o n t h an w h e n i t i s ove r ”,
wrote Stephen Sestanovic. In the view of this author, his observation is particularly
true about the recent wave of color revolutions in Europe. The expectation that
color revolutions are a model of political change that can be replicated is false.
These historic upheavals signaled not a new wave of democratic revolution but the
exhaustion of the “liberal moment” in democratic politics. This does not suggest
that the democratization agenda is obsolete or that people will not go out onto the
streets demanding their rights. It does, however, suggest that the role of international
actors will decline and that the next protagonists of democratic revolutions will
probably not be liberal-minded and western-sponsored NGOs. Democratization will
not be what it used to be and it is time to face up to it.
9 Stephen Sestanovich, “Force, Money, and Pluralism”, Journal of Democracy, vol. 15, no. 3
(July 2004), pp. 32-42.

Biljana Bijelić is a Ph.D. student of history at the University of Toronto in Canada,
where she researches the impact of memories of World War II in Croatia. She
completed her M.A. degree in Russian, East European and Central Asian studies at
the University of Washington (United States). During the 1990s she was an activist
with the Women’s Human Rights Group B.a.B.e. and the Human Rights Center in
Zagreb (Croatia). As a volunteer, she took part in many public campaigns organized
by civil society groups in Croatia, including GLAS 99.
Valerie J. Bunce is Professor of Government, Chair of the Government Department
and the Aaron Binenkorb Chair of International Studies at Cornell University in the
United States. Since receiving her doctorate in Political Science at the University
of Michigan (United States), she has taught at Northwestern University (United
States), the University of Zagreb (Croatia) and at Central European University in
Budapest (Hungary). Her research has concentrated on four sets of issues, all from
a comparative perspective: democratization, economic reform, nationalism and
state dissolution. Her current work (with Sharon L. Wolchik) focuses on American
democracy promotion and electoral change in postcommunist Europe and Eurasia.
Martin Bútora is Honorary President of the Institute for Public Affairs, an
independent public policy think tank in Bratislava, Slovakia. A sociologist by training,
he was one of the founders of the Public against Violence Movement in Slovakia in
November 1989 and served as Human Rights Advisor to President Václav Havel of
Czechoslovakia (1990 to 1992). He taught at Charles University in Prague (Czech
Republic) and at Trnava University (Slovakia) before co-founding the Institute for
Public Affairs in 1997. Between 1999 and 2003, he served as Ambassador of the
Slovak Republic to the United States. Martin Bútora writes on civil society, foreign
policy and democratic transformation and is the author of three works of prose.
Iryna Chupryna is a graduate of the National University Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kyiv
(Ukraine) and of the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder (Germany). In
2004, she served as deputy head of secretariat at the Freedom of Choice Coalition
and was responsible for monitoring projects and fundraising. She assisted the head
of the PORA coordination center with external contacts and organized the day-to-
day work of the coordination center. She is one of the founders of the Civic Party
PORA and received the memorial award “for outstanding participation in the Orange
Pavol Demeš is Director for Central and Eastern Europe at the German Marshall
Fund of the United States, based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Previously, he was
Executive Director of the Slovak Academic Information Agency – Service Center for
the Third Sector and acted as spokesperson for the Gremium of the Third Sector

from 1994 to 1999. In these capacities, Pavol Demeš was actively involved in
the OK ‘98 campaign. He served as Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of the
Slovak Republic between 1993 and 1997, as Minister of International Relations
in 1991 to 1992 and as Director of the Department of Foreign Relations in the
Ministry of Education in 1990 to 1991. Pavol Demeš has published widely on issues
of democracy and civil society, most recently the book Prospects for Democracy in
Belarus (2006), and he has extensively trained civic activists across Central and
Eastern Europe.
Miljenko Dereta is Executive Director of Civic Initiatives, a Serbian NGO he founded
in 1996 to involve people in local communities in democratic change. He also
ser ve s on the council of the Federation of Serbian NGOs, the largest platform of civil
society organizations in the country. Originally a freelance director of TV programs
and movies, Miljenko Dereta was barred from working in his profession when he
took a public position against Milošević, war and nationalism in 1989. In 1992, he
became President of the Executive Board of the Civic Alliance and engaged with the
Center for Antiwar Action and the Belgrade Circle.
Sharon Fisher is a Central European and Balkan specialist at Global Insight in
Washington, DC, in the United States, where she conducts economic and political
analysis, risk assessment and forecasting on a number of countries. She spent
six months in Croatia while doing her Ph.D. studies at the London-based School of
Slavonic and East European Studies (United Kingdom) and was in Zagreb for the
month prior to the January 2000 parliamentary elections, allowing her to witness
the campaign fi rst hand. Sharon Fisher wrote her doctoral thesis on national identity
in Slovakia and Croatia during the 1990s and is the author of Political Change in
Post-Communist Slovakia and Croatia: From Nationalist to Europeanist (2006).
Joerg Forbrig is Program Offi cer for Central and Eastern Europe at the German
Marshall Fund of the United States, based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Prior to assuming
this position in 2002, Joerg Forbrig worked as a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow at
the Center for International Relations in Warsaw (Poland) and conducted doctoral
research at the European University Institute in Florence (Italy). As a scholar and
practitioner, he has worked extensively on democracy, civil society and Central and
Eastern European affairs and has published widely on these issues, most recently
the books Prospects for Democracy in Belarus (2006), Revisiting Youth Political
Participation (2005) and Ukraine after the Orange Revolution (2005).
Václav Havel is a renowned Czech writer and dramatist, dissident and politician.
He established himself as a playwright in the 1960s, with plays including “The
Garden Party” (1963), “The Memorandum” (1965) and “The Increased Diffi culty of
Concentration” (1968). He was one of the fi rst spokespersons for Charter 77 and a
leading fi gure in the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989. He was President
of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992 and of the Czech Republic from 1993 to

2003. For his literary and dramatic works, for his lifelong efforts and opinions and
for his unyielding position in defense of human rights, Václav Havel has received
numerous state decorations, international awards and honorary doctorates.
Giorgi Kandelaki was elected to the fi rst student self-government at Tbilisi State
University, Georgia, in 2001. In this capacity, he contributed to a high-profi le
campaign against corruption and for reform in higher education. In April 2003,
he co-founded the youth movement KMARA, which played an instrumental role in
Georgia’s November 2003 Rose Revolution. More recently, he has trained young
activists to organize for nonviolent change in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Moldova and
Belarus, where he and a colleague were detained for eleven days in August 2005.
Since June 2005, Giorgi Kandelaki has been an advisor in the administration of
President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Vladyslav Kaskiv is a civic activist hailing from the Ukrainian student movement
of the 1990s. He served on the Presidium of the All Ukrainian Public Resistance
Committee Za Pravdu! (For Truth) in 2000 and 2001. Between 1999 and 2004, he
was coordinator of the Freedom of Choice Coalition, which implemented monitoring
projects during the 1999 and 2004 presidential elections. Author of the PORA
strategy, he was a member of the PORA council and head of its coordination center.
After the Orange Revolution, he headed a working group on the transformation of
PORA into various civil society organizations. Since April 2005, he has been an
advisor to the president of Ukraine. Currently, he heads the political council of the
Civic Party PORA.
Ivan Krastev is a Political Scientist. He is chair of the board of the Center for Liberal
S t r a t e g i e s i n S o fi a , B u l g a r i a . H e a l s o s e r v e s a s E x e c u t i v e D i r e c t o r o f t h e I n t e r n a t i o n a l
Commission on the Balkans and as Director of the Open Century Project of Central
European University in Budapest (Hungary). In 2006, Ivan Krastev was awarded
membership in the Forum of Young Global Leaders, a partner organization of the
World Economic Forum. Ivan Krastev is Editor-in-Chief of the Bulgarian edition of
Foreign Policy and a regular contributor to the Journal of Democracy, openDemocracy
and Europe’s World. His recent books include Shifting Obsessions: Three Essays on
the Politics of Anticorruption (2004) and The Anti-American Century (co – edited with
Alan McPherson, 2006).
Taras Kuzio is an Adjunct Professor at the Institute for European, Russian and
Eurasian Studies of the Elliott School of International Relations at George Washington
University in the United States where he previously worked as a visiting professor.
In prior appointments, Taras Kuzio was a Resident Fellow at the Center for Russian
and East European Studies of the University of Toronto (Canada), a Post-Doctoral
Fellow at Yale University (United States), a Senior Research Fellow at the University
of Birmingham (United Kingdom) and Head of Mission of NATO’s Information and

Documentation Center in Kyiv (Ukraine). He contributes regularly to a variety of
international media and academic publications.
Giorgi Meladze is Program Director of the Liberty Institute, a Georgia-based liberal
public policy institute. He joined the Institute in 2001 and has served as its Rule of
Law Director since September 2004. Giorgi Meladze holds a law degree from Tbilisi
State University in Georgia and was a Public Interest Law Initiative visiting scholar at
Columbia University Law School in the United States in 2002 and 2003.
Jelica Minić is a leading Serbian NGO activist and expert on European integration,
currently serving as a Senior Scientifi c Advisor at the Institute of Economic Sciences
in Belgrade, Serbia. From 1992 to 2000, she was Vice President and subsequently
Secretary General of the European Movement in Serbia. She served as Deputy
Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2000 to 2004, in charge of economic relations, EU
affairs and regional integration. She has been a consultant for think tanks and NGOs,
the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, international donors, European Union
projects and the United Nations Development Program. Jelica Minić has lectured at
various academic and professional institutions in Serbia and is the author of more
than 150 publications.
Robin Shepherd is a Senior Transatlantic Fellow with the German Marshall Fund
of the United States. His work focuses on global integration issues in Central
and Eastern Europe and the relationship between economic development and
democratization. Formerly a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars and since 2003 an adjunct fellow of the Center for Strategic
and International Studies, Robin Shepherd was the Moscow Bureau Chief for the
Times of London and held positions with Reuters in Central and Eastern Europe
and London. He is the author of Czechoslovakia: The Velvet Revolution and Beyond
(2000) and regularly contributes op-eds and articles to a variety of international
media and publications.
Vitali Silitski , a Minsk-based political analyst, graduated in 1994 from the Belarusian
State University and received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University in
the United St ate s in 1999. He returned to Belarus to work as an as sociate profe s sor
at the European Humanities University in Minsk (Belarus), a position he was forced
to leave in 2003 after publicly criticizing the government of President Alyaksandar
Lukashenka. Since then, he has been a freelance author and analyst for the Freedom
House Nations in Transit Report and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In 2004 to
2005, he was a Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy
(United States). In 2006, he joined Stanford University (United States) as a visiting
scholar at the Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.
Sharon L. Wolchik is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs
at George Washington University in the United States. She is the author of
Czechoslovakia in Transition: Politics, Economics, and Society, and co-editor of

Women and Democracy: Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe; Domestic
and Foreign Policy in Eastern Europe in the 1980s; Ukraine: In Search of a National
Identity; The Social Legacies of Communism; and Women, State and Party in
Eastern Europe. She is currently conducting research on the role of women in the
transition to postcommunist rule in Central and Eastern Europe, on ethnic issues in
postcommunist societies and the development of party systems and other aspects
of politics in the Czech and Slovak Republics.
Yevhen Zolot ariov holds a degree in history from Kharkiv State Pedagogical
University in Ukraine. In 2000 to 2001, he headed the Kharkiv branch of the All
Ukrainian Public Resistance Committee Za Pravdu! (For Truth). In 2004, he served
on the PORA council and headed the department for special operations at the PORA
coordination center. He coordinated street actions and civic resistance during the
presidential campaign and the Orange Revolution. He is the head of the all-Ukrainian
NGO Nova PORA and one of the founders of the Civic Party PORA that emerged
from the transformation of the PORA civic campaign. He has received the memorial
award “for outstanding participation in the Orange Revolution”.


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The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a nonpartisan American
public policy and grant making institution dedicated to promoting greater cooperation
and understanding between the United States and Europe.
GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working on transatlantic
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Founded in 1972 through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall
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In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has six offi ces in Europe:
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DIE ERSTE österreichische Spar-Casse Privatstiftung is the direct successor to the
savings association bank Erste Oesterreichische Spar-Casse, founded in Vienna in
1819. ERSTE Foundation draws its mandate from the tradition of the savings banks,
which were founded more than 180 years ago as non-profi t organizations. As the
main shareholder of Erste Bank, ERSTE Foundation ensures the bank’s independent
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Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš, Editors
Civil Society and Electoral Change
in Central and Eastern Europe
Postcommunism, with its exaggerated emphasis
on the power of the economy, politics, law
enforcement, justice and the media, can be seen,
to some extent, as echoing the communist period.
The patience of people has been enormous, but
not without limits. Fortunately, the ethos of the
anti-communist revolutions of 1989 and 1990,
the natural self-organization of civil society and the
international context made a return to totalitarianism
impossible. Sooner or later, the situation in various
postcommunist countries ripened into civic protest
against the new abuses of power.
From the preface by Václav Havel
Joerg Forbrig and Pavol Demeš, Editors