Taking partly free voters seriously: autocratic response to voter preferences in Armenia and Georgia
Do voters matter in competitive authoritarian regimes and, if so, how? Do their preferences make any difference in the way in which the regime conceives policies and goes about policy-making? In this article we show that they do, and that incumbents take them seriously. Crucially, the way the regime responds to policy demand determines their durability in office. In this article we explain why, despite strong similarities, the political regime ruling Armenia remained stable over the years (from
... ver the years (from the mid-1990s), whereas the one in Georgia has been unseated on two occasions (2003-04; 2012-13). Evidence confirms that policy-making and the voters' perceptions thereof also play an important role in determining whether a regime collapses or survives. The incumbents collect information on voter preferences, and devise policies in response to them. Policy-making thus matters and is extremely consequential. Paradoxically, however, policy-making makes a difference in counter-intuitive ways. The article concludes that a regime which refrains from making grand promises, or blatantly contradictory or unrealistic ones, has greater chances of surviving than those that set out to transform society, like Saakashvili's Georgia. Ultimately, such policies backfire on those who launched them.