Debating the Color Revolutions: Popular Autocrats

Issue Date January 2009
Volume 20
Issue 1
Page Numbers 78-81
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The popularity of incumbents can explain the resilience of authoritarian regimes in postcommunist Eurasia. Popular autocrats, in contrast to their unpopular counterparts, enjoy the support of the electorate and rarely have to resort to the use of brute force. Incumbents have at their disposal three strategies for ensuring popularity: economic populism, anti-Western nationalism, and muzzling the media. Cumulatively, these three strategies produce high levels of regime legitimacy and stability, and thwart the rise of a successful opposition movement. Broadly speaking, popular incumbents have managed to hold on to power in postcommunist Eurasia, while unpopular ones have eventually been unseated.