If free and fair elections repeatedly fail to respond to popular dissatisfaction, then a crisis of representative democracy will emerge. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia, such a crisis is already undermining the legitimacy of their young democratic systems. Despite positive evaluations from democracy indices and EU reports, citizens are increasingly discontent and give little support to the existing political options. Understanding the causes and characteristics of this crisis requires revising the instruments for measuring democracy. More attention needs to be focused on citizens’ expectations for a freer and more prosperous future after their experiences of the crisis of state socialism. Measurements of institutional changes must also include people’s attitudes towards institutions. In addition, main trends in the economy as experienced by the average citizen need to be considered: evidence of an elite-captured economy, rising inequality, and limited state capacity to redistribute resources are crucial factors in understanding discrepancies between formal democratic standards and the actual responsiveness of the system to the wishes of its citizens. From the analysis of these post-Yugoslav societies, this article draws conclusions for general democracy theory.
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