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The Legacy of Empire: A Genealogy of Post-Soviet Election Laws

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For more content, see Review of Socialist Law.

Flawed electoral legislation in post-Soviet states has facilitated the conduct of undemocraticelections. Many of the flaws in the election laws are not sui generis but, instead, originate from provisions in Soviet and post-communist Russian laws from which the post-Soviet legislators have borrowed. This article traces the origin and evolution of the election laws of nine post-Soviet states that have been perpetually undemocratic until at least 2010. The article demonstrates that most post-Soviet states have routinely disregarded recommendations by the OSCE and the Venice Commission directed towards the improvement of national election laws and that these laws largely continue to be shaped by Soviet and Russian legislation. In addition, the author points to the enduring impact of the Soviet legacy and the relatively hegemonic position of Russia in the region vis-à-vis the legislation of post-Soviet states, and highlights a widespread but occasionally overlooked form of institutional choice: legal borrowing (legal transplants) and adaptation. The present article also carries implications for the efforts of the OSCE and other actors to bring electoral legislation of the post-Soviet states more in line with appropriate international standards.


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