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Authoritarian Reactions to Colour Revolutions

The current issue of Democratization (Volume 19, Issue 1, Feb 2012) is devoted to special theme of “Reassessing Coloured Revolutions and Authoritarian Reactions“.

In introductory essay, No more colour! Authoritarian regimes and colour revolutions in EurasiaEvgeny Finkel and Yitzhak M. Brudny propose a new typology of authoritarian reactions to the challenge of coloured pro-democracy uprisings, and present the main findings of this special issue:

By presenting a series of qualitative, country-focused studies we aim to explore the whole spectrum of potential anti-democratization policies, ranging from preventing elite splits at the top (the case of Azerbaijan), to establishing supervision bodies at the community level (Uzbekistan); from brutally and violently cracking down on protesters (Iran), to using very limited physical force (Belarus); from staging mass rallies (Russia), to fearing any type of mass mobilization (Tajikistan). Our main findings, however, are that the strategies adopted by the governments of these diverse states follow a similar logic of isolation, marginalization, distribution, repression and persuasion and that the specific policies are shaped by regimes’ perceived intensity of a threat to regime survival and the regime’s perceived strength vis-à-vis the democratic opposition.

The essay on Iran has been written by Güneş Murat Tezcür (Loyola University), titled Democracy promotion, authoritarian resiliency, and political unrest in Iran (Gated). Tezcür is the author of Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey: The Paradox of Moderation (2010).

Abstract:

This article argues that recent de-democratization in Iran can be best understood by analysing the interplay of domestic Iranian politics and two external developments. These were the colour revolutions in several post-communist states and the hostile US policies toward Iran after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Together they generated a political climate in Iran conducive to hardliner attempts to discredit and neutralize the reformist opposition. The regime tried to delegitimize the opposition by portraying it as being in the service of foreign elements and claiming it was seeking to foment a popular uprising. The consequences were twofold. On the one hand, the regime’s identification of civic and political activism as threats to national security greatly reduced the manoeuvrability of the reformist opposition and contributed to their marginalization. These developments point to the limits and unintended consequences of democracy promotion in Iran. On the other hand, the post-electoral protests of 2009 exposed the limits of conspiracy discourse in silencing mass discontent. This article argues that the regime’s attempt to portray the unrest as a foreign conspiracy failed to convince a large segment of the population.

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