Vreme Je! It's Time! Mobilization and Voting for Regime Change, The Serbian Elections of 2000 Open Access
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In Milosevic's Serbia, after going to the polls more than seven times in seven years, citizens had no success in achieving regime change through the ballot box despite the fact that surveys repeatedly showed that those favoring the opposition were increasingly in the majority. Over this span of time, citizens became disillusioned, coming to believe first that their vote did not make a difference due to government fraud and gerrymandering and second, there were no real alternatives to vote for. This disillusionment, along with the regime's conscious policies to demobilize voters led to an ever increasing number of voters who abstained from voting.Placed within the context of the wave of democratizing elections in Central and Eastern Europe, this dissertation examines why it was that individual voters decided to vote in record numbers in the elections in September of 2000 when they previously had not done so. In contrast to many accounts of the fall of the semi-authoritarian regimes that either emphasize the political opportunity structure and focus on the vulnerabilities of the regime, or other accounts of the Serbian case that only view the week of post-election protests as crucial to regime change, I argue that it was choices made and strategies used by the opposition prior to the election that were crucial to the election's outcome, an outcome that was in no way assured either for Milosevic or for the opposition. Without a victory in the elections, the rest could not have happened. Thus the process that came before the protests, and before the elections, was crucial. Examining both the "demand," or potential in society for protest, and drawing on literatures that examine grievance formation, attribution of blame and collective identity, and the "supply" side of participation, including framing and action repertoires, the dissertation analyzes the combination of conditions and actions, especially by the opponents of the regime, that are needed to successfully bring about change in a semi-authoritarian regime. Based largely on elite interviews of both Serbian and foreign actors in conjunction with documentary evidence, reported interviews and Serbian academic analyses and contemporary news accounts, my dissertation contributes to an often overlooked aspect of these so-called electoral revolutions, which is why this effort to bring about change via elections would succeed when previous efforts had failed.