Thisisespeciallytrueofelectoralsystems.Althoughthereexistsasignifi-cantliteraturelinkingparticularelectoralsystemsdirectlytocertainpoliticaloutcomes,fewstudiesfocusexplicitlyontheoriginanddevelopmentoftheseparticular electoral systems (e.g., see Lijphart, 1985).
Yet, the struggle todefine the nature of electoral systems is at the center of transitional politics.Particularly in a new state, they are the rules of the game that matter mostbecause they determine who will set future rules of the game. Electoral sys-tems are also an important institution for gauging political change becausethey serve as a crucial benchmark for assessing the level of a country’s com-mitment to democratization. In sum, they are an important first step towardestablishing independent statehood as well as winning the approval of theinternational community. It is not surprising, then, that electoral systems areoftenthefirstinstitutionthatpoliticalactorsinnewstates,orstatesundergo-ing transition, seek to design, in an effort to gain internal recognition and tobolster external legitimacy.Thisarticletakesafirstcutatexplaininginstitutionaloriginandchangeintransitional states by explaining the establishment of electoral systems inthree former Soviet Central Asian republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, andUzbekistan. These three states provide a fertile testing ground for two mainreasons.First,despitefundamentalhistoricalandstructuralsimilarities,theirelectoral systems vary in significant ways. This allows us to hold constanttheir common features to isolate other factors, such as elite bargaining,which recent studies of both democratic transitions and electoral systemshave consistently emphasized over historical and structural legacies inexplaininginstitutionaloutcomes(e.g.,seeBawn,1993;Brady&Mo,1992;Colomer, 1991; Geddes, 1996; O’Donnell & Schmitter, 1986; Przeworski,1991).Second,itisinCentralAsiawherescholarlyaccountsledustoexpectthe greatest break with the Soviet past, through the emergence (orreemergence) of tribal, religious, or national identities and institutions thatwere long suppressed under Soviet rule.
Yet, a close look at the establish-ment of electoral systems in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan indi-catesthecontinuedstrengthofpoliticalpreferencesandpracticesinheritedfrom the Soviet period. Although it produced markedly different outcomes
564 COMPARATIVE POLITICAL STUDIES / June 20001. Two notable exceptions are Bawn (1993) and Brady and Mo (1992).2. Following the Soviet Union’s collapse, the vast majority of scholars working on CentralAsiapredictedeithertheresurrectionofpre-SovietidentitiesandinstitutionsintheformoftribaldivisionsandIslamicfundamentalism,ortheviolentrejectionoftheSovietlegacyintheformof nationalismandethnicconflict(e.g.,seeHaghayegdi,1994;Kaumkin,1994;Olcott,1994).Oth-ers claimed that Soviet institutions had left Central Asia virtually untransformed from itspre-Soviet cultural and historical past. (e.g., see Fierman, 1991).