The failure of the color revolution model. In this essay, you will attempt to figure out why "color revolutions" aren't more frequent than they are - after all, there are plenty of stolen elections today. Why do some countries that seem ripe for a "color"-style revolution - occasioned by a stolen election - not experience one?


  1. Select one recent instance of claimed electoral fraud (e.g., the recent presidential elections in Zimbabwe, the Mexican elections of last year, the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004, the Armenian elections of last February, one of the various stolen elections in Beissinger's Table 1).
  2. Explain the "color revolution" model (drawing on Beissinger): the occasion for such a revolution, the actors, and the repertoire used by participants. You may provide examples from any of the four succesful color revolutions to illustrate the model.
  3. Describe briefly the events in the country you selected - what happened after the Zimbabwean presidential elections, for example? Was there mass mobilization of the opposition? Were there foreign election monitors? What was the response of the government? Were the claims of fraud credible?
  4. Drawing on Beissinger's piece or other work, present an argument for why a color-style revolution did not take place in the particular case you selected. Possible topics to consider: What is different about, for example, Zimbabwe today that made it hard or impossible for opposition activists to use the "color revolution" model? Was it harder or easier to mobilize the opposition? Did the government show learning in terms of how they chose to deal with the opposition? Was the problem simply a failure of the opposition to learn about the model? Was the type of regime too different from the regimes in Serbia, Ukraine, etc. for the model to work? Were structural factors (cf. Boix) too unfavorable to revolution?
  5. Is there any model of revolution that would have been useful to the opposition in the case in question?

Results and further discussion

Use this page to share your cases, summarize your conclusions, and get feedback from your peers.


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  • The Geddes and O'Donnell and Schmitter readings might also be useful in thinking about this problem.