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Taking Stock of the Strengths and Limitations of Structural Explanations

The post-communist experience appears to provide evidence that big background conditions strongly influence outcomes in political regime. As shown in the multivariate regressions presented above, economic development, economic reliance on energy resources, geographical location, and religious affiliation, taken together, explain the bulk of crossnational variation in political regimes over the first two post-communist decades. investigating the bivariate relationships in the data sheds light on how each structural variable correlates with regime outcomes and how certain countries’ scores differ from what one might have expected given their values on particular independent variables.

Table 1.2 is based on the results of the multivariate regression presented in model 7 of Table 1.1. It shows the observed and predicted scores on the democracy index for each country for the year 2008. I pick this year because it is relatively late in the period under examination and has less missing data than previous or subsequent years, though scores are missing for Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia. Because Serbia has data for 2007 (while neither Kosovo nor Montenegro have such data), I use its score in that year. The table sums up how each country did on its democracy score in that year given the expectations of the model.

As we would expect given the discussion above, the basic model provides a strong basis for making predictions about regime outcomes in specific countries. Croatia’s score was exactly what we would have expected it to be, knowing the country’s level of economic development, hydrocarbon production, distance from Vienna, and religious composition. The same is true for Hungary. Observed and predicted scores on the democracy index are within 0.05 points for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, and for Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Moldova they are within 0.1.

But structure is not destiny. Some countries’ scores differ substantially from what the model would predict. Albania, Mongolia, Poland, and Romania score significantly higher than the model would predict. Serbia, which was torn by war in the late 1980s and early 1990s, recovered rapidly

Table 1.2 Observed and predicted democracy scores by country, 2008*

Country

Observed electoral democracy score

Predicted electoral democracy score

Residual value

Albania

0.61

0.45

0.16

Armenia

0.37

0.54

-0.17

Azerbaijan

0.27

0.18

0.09

Belarus

0.28

0.71

-0.43

BiH

0.34

0.49

-0.15

Bulgaria

0.73

0.51

0.22

Croatia

0.80

0.80

0

Czech Republic

0.91

0.84

0.07

Estonia

0.91

0.78

0.13

Georgia

0.60

0.49

0.11

Hungary

0.82

0.82

0

Kazakhstan

0.33

0.28

0.05

Kosovo

0.51

N/A

N/A

Kyrgyzstan

0.31

0.28

0.03

Latvia

0.87

0.79

0.08

Lithuania

0.83

0.81

0.02

Macedonia

0.65

0.45

0.20

Moldova

0.49

0.55

-0.06

Mongolia

0.75

0.64

0.11

Montenegro

0.58

N/A

N/A

Poland

0.92

0.81

0.11

Romania

0.66

0.53

0.13

Russia

0.37

0.41

-0.04

Serbia (2007)*

0.70

0.55

0.15

Slovakia

0.88

0.83

0.05

Slovenia

0.89

0.83

0.06

Tajikistan

0.33

0.21

0.12

Turkmenistan

0.22

0.07

0.15

Ukraine

0.65

0.60

0.05

Uzbekistan

0.23

0.23

0

*Data for Serbia are for 2007. Kosovo and Montenegro are missing.

after the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 and subsequently posted democracy scores that exceed what we could have expected. In our analyses above, we did not account for civil or international conflict, which we might have expected to correlate with lower scores on democracy. While Bosnia’s and Armenia’s underperformance on democratization suggests that war and intercommunal division might diminish democracy’s prospects, Serbia shows that they do not necessarily do so.

The most dramatic divergences between observed and predicted scores are for Bulgaria and Belarus. Bulgaria does very well and Belarus very poorly.

 
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