Voter Turnout and Democratic Legitimacy in Central Eastern Europe
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Polish Academy of Sciences and Warsaw School of Social Psychology
Publication date: 2006-12-29
Polish Sociological Review 2006;156(4):449–470
Political participation is one of the most important democratic ideals. Democracy cannot function properly without citizens’ involvement. Moreover, low turnout can be a threat to democracy. There are two theoretical arguments why low voter turnout could matter in Central Eastern Europe. Firstly, countries in this region are still in a process of democratization. In such systems legitimacy of a regime by definition cannot be strong. Thus any device enhancing legitimacy, including widespread participation, is desired. Secondly, in non-democratic systems abstaining is one of the most common and well-known ways of de- legitimizing a regime. Therefore the main purpose of this paper is to analyze the relation between electoral turnout and legitimacy of democratic regime in Central Eastern Europe. In the first part I briefly discuss alternative models of democracy, which differently define the role of electoral participation. In the second part both legitimacy and turnout are discussed, while in the third part results of empirical analyses, reporting relations between the two variables are presented. The hypotheses are to be tested on the Consolidation of Democracy data.
Earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2005 ECPR Joint Sessions (Granada, April 14–19, panel 9: “The Performance of Democracy in Central Eastern Europe”).