In This Review

Institutional Change and Political Continuity in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Power, Perceptions, and Pacts
Institutional Change and Political Continuity in Post-Soviet Central Asia: Power, Perceptions, and Pacts
By Pauline Jones Luong
Cambridge University Press, 2002, 320 pp.

An intriguing, albeit highly stylized, account of how the electoral systems in three Central Asian states -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan -- came to be. Jones Luong embeds her study in the current dominant discourse of academic comparative politics, focusing on the sources and effects of institutions. She asks how it is that three countries with such similar political legacies, social contexts, and negotiating settings nonetheless produced contrasting electoral arrangements. In all three, regionalism mattered more to political outcomes than did ethnicity or religion, and in all three the primary protagonists were leaders from both the center and the regions. But it was the different ways that these leaders judged their shifting advantages during negotiations that determined the result. The rigor with which Jones Luong traces the rise and significance of the regional dimension in the politics of these states is impressive. But her attempt to explain the overall peaceful character of their political transitions, and later the weakening of democratic trends, is less so.