Traditionally, and for some good reasons, elections in Communist one-party states have been treated as relatively unimportant phenomena, essentially ‘massive demonstrations of ritualized affirmation’, or simply a test of the Communist party's mobilization powers. The absence of competing political parties and consequently opposing goals and programmes does clearly mean that such elections are very different from those in liberal democratic states. They do not and cannot, for example, resolve the often crucial question of political succession.
* Department of Politics, University of Bristol. We are grateful to Roger Clements and David Lane for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.