Meirowitz and Tucker: Colored Revolutions a "One Shot Deal"?

March 2, 2011, 3:42 p.m.

Adam Meirowitz and Joshua A. Tucker discuss the contrasting reactions seen in Ukraine between the 2005 and 2010 presidential elections in, People Power or a One Shot Deal? A Dynamic Model of Protest.  They ask the question of why the Orange Revolution blossomed in the 2005 presidential elections to protest the electoral fraud found by Viktor Yanukovich versus the presidential election in 2010 where Yanukovich won the election followed by no protests among the Ukrainian people.  The model they developed attempts to explain why a “one shot deal” can be found among the recent Colored Revolutions that have taken place.

These events present a puzzle: why were citizens willing to bear the cost of protesting in 2004 to ensure that Yanukovich not become president, only to shrug their collective shoulders at his victory five years later?  We consider this puzzle from a theoretical perspective, modeling the effect of protest at one point in time on the likelihood of protest in the future. The model provides numerous predictions for why we might observe a “one shot deal" scenario whereby protest occurs in the first period but not the second, but the most important novel insight concerns the learning process of citizens. We suggest that citizens may not only be discovering the type of their new government - as most previous models of adverse selection assume - but rather may also be learning about the universe of potential governments in their country.

They conclude by using their model to look at the costs and incentives associated with participating in protests and the expected returns associated with it.
For people to bare the costs associated with a protest aimed at removing a government from power, they need to believe that the replacement government will be better; otherwise, there is no point in baring the costs associated with protest. So while poor performance by a particular government is a bid signal about that government it can also be a bad signal about governments in general. This connection is particularly plausible in settings where citizens believe they are experiencing a form of politics that differs substantially from the past.

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