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Electoral Activism in Iran: A Mechanism for Political Change

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Scholars of electoral authoritarianism contend that elections make autocratic regimes more durable, while scholarship on democratization states that authoritarian elections can lead to electoral revolutions and regime change. In this article, we argue that these two lenses occlude smaller instances of activism during election periods and the influence that this activism has on bringing about gradual political change. To build our argument, we draw on two presidential elections held in Iran in 2009 and 2013. We show how grassroots activists use elections to abort gains made by hardliners, push centrist and moderate candidates toward more reformist and democratic stances, promote issues that would otherwise be considered beyond the pale of formal regime politics, and encourage solidarity and opposition coalition building.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2020

This article was made available online on November 11, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Electoral Activism in Iran: A Mechanism for Political Change".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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