This article analyses the differences and similarities in citizen participation between the new democracies of central and eastern Europe and the established democracies of the west. Citizens in the post-communist countries participate less in politics than their western neighbours. The article asks why this is the case and finds that no satisfactory answers have been offered in the literature so far. Developing a set of propositions about the factors that explain participation differences between old and new European democracies it shows that only a small part of the difference in political engagement is due to regional variation in the socio-demographic, attitudinal, and mobilization-related characteristics of citizens. The analysis also finds that, while the factors explaining election turnout have a largely similar impact in old and new democracies, the causes of protest participation, in particular those relating to left-right semantics, are significantly different between the two sets of countries. While many components of tried-and-tested models of political participation work equally well in new and old democracies, some of the differences in political engagement cannot be accounted for without reference to contextual variables specific to the post-communist democracies, in particular the different pre-democratic regime types and modes of the transition process.
- new democracies