restricted access Diffusion Brokers and Regime Change Waves: The US Role in the Wave of Central and Eastern European Electoral Breakthroughs


What role did the US play in one of the latest waves of democratization—the Central and Eastern European wave of electoral breakthroughs in the late 1990s and early 2000s? Did the US orchestrate it? Many in the region and even in the US assume that the US meddles in elections, often promoting regime change under the guise of electoral or (more broadly) democracy assistance. This study argues, however, that the US did not choreograph these revolutions. Instead, the US provided financial and technical assistance that supported various constituencies for reform and, importantly, brokered the diffusion of the "electoral-breakthrough" model. If in the early period of the wave's eruption, the US helped put the model together, in the later period, the US broadened the scope and increased the speed of the diffusion process. The paper looks at the US role in the wave of Central and Eastern European electoral breakthroughs to add to the literatures on comparative democratization and diffusion, theorizing the overlooked role of brokers in diffusion waves.