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  1. Democracy Out of Balance | Hoover Institution
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  3. Most recent publications
  4. Upholding Democracy in a Post-Western Order

Whilst some understand it in procedural terms — as electoral competition and decision-making — others view it more broadly in terms of civil and political rights and the distribution of power within society. Either way, a central question is how citizens exercise control and scrutiny over political institutions.

This page addresses two specific issues for development practitioners. How can processes of democratisation be supported in different development contexts? And how can democracy be pro-poor? A large body of literature on democracy addresses these and many other questions. For further reading, please see the links in the useful websites section.

Democracy Out of Balance | Hoover Institution

How are processes of democratisation influenced by economic development, history, state capacity and civil society? Why do some democratisation processes succeed where others fail? Can these processes be effectively supported by external agencies? But there is considerable ongoing debate about whether and how structural factors — economic, social, and institutional conditions and legacies — impact on the prospects for democratisation and on the sustainability of democratic political systems.

Carothers, T. Democratic sequencing suggests that they should. This article from the Journal of Democracy argues that sequencing is a problematic idea rooted in scepticism about democracy, which helps to postpone democratisation indefinitely. A more useful alternative is gradualism, which aims to build democracy slowly, taking into account the risks and complications of democratisation. Access full text: available online. Tilly, C. What are the necessary conditions for successful democratisation? This study from Columbia University attempts to specify the various conditions and processes that promoted or blocked democratisation in different parts of Europe between and the present.

It identifies possible mechanisms in democratisation and specifies likely conditions affecting their emergence. Lynch, G. What factors determine the quality and strength of democratic politics, and what can make democracies susceptible to failure? There is broad consensus that in order for democratisation processes to be sustainable, they need to come from within. While some have argued that existing donor approaches to democracy promotion have neglected local concerns, others argue that the most serious problem with democracy promotion has been a failure to defend core liberal norms.

Kapstein, E. Yet this article analyses new data on young democracies and argues that political institutions are crucial for democratic consolidation. Institutions that place effective constraints on executive power are especially important. Rakner, L. How can donors best support democratisation in these countries? In order to be sustainable, democratisation impulses need to come from within. External actors have a positive role to play in efforts to strengthen democratic structures, but they cannot act as substitutes when domestic support is lacking. Luckham, R. Bastian and R.

Yet, is the evidence for this conclusive?


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It investigates ways in which democratic institutions can be designed to foster democratic politics that embody popular demands for participation, social justice and peace. A growing body of literature discusses how democratic politics can embody popular demands for participation, social justice and peace. Approaches to building democratic political systems need to go beyond the introduction of minimal, procedural democracy.

Siegle, J. There are few linear relationships linking events in North Africa to specific shifts in democratisation on the continent. However, the frustration propelling the protests in North Africa resonates with many Africans. The Arab Spring is instigating changes in the expectations that African citizens have of their governments. Radelet, S. This essay highlights 17 African countries that have achieved dramatic improvements in economic growth, poverty reduction and political accountability.

The turnaround was ignited by a combination of economic reform and political change.

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This is due to the combination of five key factors: the rise of more democratic and accountable governments; the implementation of better economic policies; the end of the debt crisis; the spread of new technologies that promote political accountability and new business opportunities; and the emergence of new policymakers, activists and business leaders. Gaventa, J. It argues that democracy is an ongoing process of contestation, rather than a set of standardised institutional designs: approaches to democracy should combine a range of democratic models. Horner, L.

It shows that democracy in many Asia-Pacific countries consists mainly of formal democratic institutions rather than substantive democratic processes, values and relationships. This leaves democratic space prone both to manipulation and to closure by powerful individuals and groups. Ottaway, M. Ottaway and A. Why has political pluralism in the Arab world not yet matured into functional democratic politics? Formal political spaces are tightly controlled and have failed to achieve democratic dividends. Informal protests are increasingly popular as a way of making demands on leaders, but have not yet reinvigorated formal politics or generated concessions from governments.

Schattan, V. It features a collection of new empirical case studies from Angola, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, to illustrate how forms of political mobilisation, such as protests, social participation, activism, litigation and lobbying engage with the formal institutions of representative democracy in ways that are core to the development of democratic politics. Youngs, R. Current criticisms of the democracy agenda therefore risk pushing policy deliberations in the opposite direction to their required improvement.

The quality of democratic politics is highly variable between countries and also between institutions within them. Even where the formal institutions of democracy are seemingly in place, in reality, the state can continue to operate on non-democratic principles.

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In recent years, semi-democracies, or hybrid regimes — which occupy a middle ground between outright authoritarianism and full liberal democracy — have become a focus of attention. Rocha Menocal, A.

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A deeper understanding of the problems besetting these regimes helps provide a more realistic assessment of what these incipient and fragile democracies can be expected to achieve. Boege, V. As such, it does not have a privileged position; it has to share authority, legitimacy, and capacity with other structures.

Is democracy necessary or good for development? Can it work in under-developed contexts? How can democracy be pro-poor? The relationship between democracy and development is highly contested.

Most recent publications

Some argue that democratic institutions play a crucial role in promoting development, but others contend that democratic politics can actually hinder prospects for economic growth. Between and , Japan on average only allocated approximately 1 percent of its official development assistance to democracy support.

By contrast, most Northern European and Anglo-Saxon countries allocated approximately 10 percent or more of their official development assistance to democracy-related aid. The absence of a popular democratization movement and the traditional belief in strong state bureaucracies also help explain why more than 98 percent of the limited democracy assistance Japan does give is allocated to state institutions. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs employs a clearly state-centered approach to democratization, so Japanese aid for democracy provides little in the way of civil society assistance.

At the heart of the transition was a model of tolerance and overcoming injustice. As a result, some in the ANC came to associate democratic transitions with overcoming Western geostrategic neoimperialism; this has bred a reluctance to be at all interventionist in foreign policy. On the other hand, some came to see democracy support more as a civic-led movement with strong links across borders. This school of thought has pushed for more active South African democracy promotion policies built on support for civil society rather than cautious government-to-government, sovereigntist diplomacy.

This fact explains in part why the country has not pursued a consistent, activist approach to democracy support over the past twenty years but rather an ad hoc, triangulated one. The country also experienced democratic transition through extensive negotiation and compromise rather than a single, big-bang event, in part due to an emphasis on the reconciliation of a divided population.

Reflecting this experience, South Africa often pursues democracy support through a gradualist, conflict-mediation lens. The country seeks to use its own transition and negotiated settlement as a tool to end conflict in Africa. This approach gives it a natural entry point for democracy support in countries where South Africa is increasingly called upon to play a role.

It has also meant that in certain instances, such as in Ivory Coast, South Africa has sought to promote peace at the expense, at least in the short term, of the formal processes of competitive elections and that support for truth commissions is prominent. Yet South Africa is firmly against the assumption that sanctions can help other democrats elsewhere.

The country proceeds rather cautiously, eschewing aggressive democracy agendas that use a system of rewards and sanctions. But this aversion to sanctions is not unexpected in light of the bipolar nature of support for the ANC in exile. Through the legacy of the past and the messianic tone used by the ANC as it was endorsing the transition in , South Africa has elevated itself to a principled role, and it could serve as a guarantor and promoter of democratic norms and values, particularly in Africa.

The bloodless political transition capped two decades of tenacious struggles led by intellectual dissidents, college students, and labor activists. The student movement had carried the torch of democracy since it toppled the autocratic First Republic in After the military entered politics with a coup, the military-backed authoritarian regime pushed for modernization as a rationale for maintaining power.

A majority of the Korean populace agreed to accept limited political freedom in return for economic development. The rapid transition from an aid-dependent country to a newly industrialized economy gave legitimacy to the authoritarian status quo. The educated middle-class citizens who were the product of this successful modernization process eventually came to reject the regime for preventing further political liberalization.

The role of international organizations or foreign governments in this evolution was limited. In fact, the United States, an influential ally of South Korea, did little to press the ruling authoritarian regimes for reform at critical junctures in the process of democratization. It was successful only after the country had already modernized substantially. This particular pattern explains why South Korea today supports the democratization of developing countries primarily through indirect means.

Although South Korea experienced a tenacious internal struggle for political change and has evolved into a vibrant democracy, its government and nongovernmental organizations remain reluctant to support democratization struggles in other parts of the world directly. Having experienced no such intervention from the outside world during their own democratic transition, most Koreans view autonomous democratization as the most viable path.

Moreover, South Koreans tend to believe that democracy is sustainable only once a certain level of economic development has been achieved. Accordingly, the country invests the majority of its foreign aid resources into supporting the socioeconomic modernization efforts of developing countries, focusing on development planning, education, and health. Institutional support for democracy has so far been limited to assisting legal and administrative bureaucracies and governance rather than political institutions per se.

The binding legacy of its own democratic transition therefore explains why South Korea, a rising democratic power, is not proactive in international democracy support. In the Turkish case, this connection is best illustrated through three main processes. Turkey became active in democracy promotion after the Islamist Justice and Development Party AKP came to power in in what was widely seen as a test case of whether Islam and democracy could indeed be compatible in a modern state.

But the AKP also rose to power during the period of the Iraq war, which substantially changed the political dynamics in the Middle East and resulted in a heightened focus on democratization in the region. The Turkish reform process emerged as a possible model for the other countries in the neighborhood. A second important internal-external linkage in the Turkish case pertains to the ways in which the AKP, particularly after the Arab Spring, has used the discourse of democracy promotion in the Middle East and North Africa to consolidate its power base at home.

Similarly, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly used anti-Shia rhetoric in reference to the ongoing Syrian civil war in order to discredit his own domestic opponents. It is therefore no coincidence that the volume and scope of Turkish democracy assistance as well as its development and humanitarian assistance in neighboring regions has increased substantially under AKP rule.

The Eastern European members of the EU, and especially Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Lithuania, are some of the most active emerging donors providing external democracy support. Unlike many other new democracies, Eastern European states do not negatively associate democracy promotion with an imposition of Western values.

In fact, for much of Eastern Europe, the end of the Cold War was a victory for the democratic West over the regional imperial power, the Soviet Union, and its autocratic governance system. Aspiring to the practices, values, and ideals of the West and joining the Euro-Atlantic community were national priorities for all these Eastern European countries in the first decade after their democratic breakthroughs. The important role played by external actors in Eastern European democratization has reinforced the understanding that these transitions represent valuable models that could and should be exported.

Eastern European democracy promoters thus very consciously and purposefully pass on best practices and lessons learned about what worked and what failed during their own transitions. Given the importance of civil society in the postcommunist transitions, most Eastern European democracy promoters provide considerable technical assistance for strengthening civil society abroad. However, different Eastern European states emphasize different elements of civil society based on their own experience.

Since then, MEMO 98 has participated in media-related election-observation missions and training in more than 30 countries around the globe, from Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina to Uganda, Mexico, and Lebanon. Together with other Slovak NGOs and a number of Slovak government officials, MEMO 98 has focused on spreading the Slovak model of electoral breakthrough, which is centered on civic campaigns to expose electoral fraud and mobilize the citizenry for democratic change. These efforts have admittedly had little success in autocracies such as Belarus, but they have helped spur electoral revolutions in countries such as Croatia, Serbia, and Ukraine in the past decade.

Eastern European democracy promoters also prioritize work with governing elites in recipient countries. In responding to regime-change windows of opportunity in neighboring Ukraine, for instance, in both and , Poland suggested that the opposition pursue elite-level negotiations and deals with the regime as a way to commit the country to democratization. In , Poland developed a roundtable plan for Ukraine, which was then implemented by the disputing parties in Ukraine to successfully end the political crisis and push the country temporarily in a more democratic direction.

For instance, Hungary prefers to implement democracy assistance projects with the consent of the host government and often emphasizes human and especially minority rights questions. And Estonia has invested in sharing its distinctive e-governance expertise in the realms of information policy and transparency with regional partners. The group of states included here as rising democracies went through different processes of transition. Some of these transitions emerged from consensus and internal compromise, as in Brazil and Chile.

Others came about on the back of successful state-led economic modernization campaigns, such as those in Japan and South Korea, or from bottom-up civic activism, as in Central and Eastern Europe. Still others emerged from a powerful party with ideological specificities that carried across national borders, such as the AKP in Turkey, or from peace-building initiatives to quell divisions in the aftermath of dramatic regime change like that in Indonesia.

Each of these countries now draws on the distinct features of its own transition to inform the way in which and the extent to which its supports democracy externally. This internal-external link can be purposive or more instinctive. That is, in some cases these countries seek to share their own transition experiences directly through democracy initiatives that they fund in other countries. In other cases, they simply tend to believe that the nature of their own transition represents the best way for political change to occur. Central and Eastern European states often foster civic activism as something positive, for example, while for Brazil elite-led change is seen as more desirable.

These types of internal-external links can be seen as both advantageous and problematic. Rising democracies make a valuable contribution to democratization by sharing their own distinctive experiences. They can add much useful experience that is not so readily available to Western democracy promoters. Arguably, however, there is not sufficient recognition on the part of rising democracies that their own models of change might not be the most appropriate for some other societies. Rising democracies struggle to detach from their own transition experiences and design their external support from an understanding of the local desires and particularities of the countries in which they operate.

In addition, as with established Western democracies, at times these countries operate from myths about their own transitions that underplay complexities and can be unhelpful if projected onto other states.

Upholding Democracy in a Post-Western Order

As they fine-tune their democracy support, these rising democracies grapple with the same difficulty that established Western democracies have long faced: they benefit in some ways from the richness of their internal experiences, but they are simultaneously hindered in other ways by the local specificities of their own experiences and models.

The opinions expressed in this paper are the responsibility of the authors. Carothers is a leading authority on international support for democracy, rights, and governance and on comparative democratization as well as an expert on U. Stuenkel currently coordinates a research project on emerging powers and the future of the global liberal order. Claudio Fuentes is a professor of political science and the director of the Social Science Research Institute at the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, where his research focuses on democratic transitions, police violence, and constitutional reform.

He has published extensively on issues of democracy, human rights, decentralized governance, constitutionalism, and nation building in South Asia. I Ketut Putra Erawan is a scholar and researcher working on democracy issues in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. He is the executive director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy, an Indonesian think tank and the implementing agency of the Bali Democracy Forum.

He was a special adviser to the minister of foreign affairs of Indonesia and a consultant for the World Bank, the UNDP, and various Indonesian agencies. Ichihara is currently working on a comparative study of democracy assistance provided by various developed democracies. He previously served as the chief of cabinet and senior special assistant to the prime minister of the Republic of Namibia and worked as a consultant for the United Nations in Burundi. Since , she has also served as president of the East Asia Institute, a Seoul-based independent think tank. Her research focuses on civil society, political economy, and democracy in Korea and Japan.

Her main research interests include European Union EU enlargement, EU-Turkey relations, discourse studies, the politics of identity, and democratization. She is the recipient of several research and teaching awards as well as many fellowships and grants, and her book on democracy export by new democracies is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. Follow the conversation— Sign up to receive email updates when comments are posted to this article.