Delegative Democracy Revisited: Colombia’s Surprising Resilience

Issue Date July 2016
Volume 27
Issue 3
Page Numbers 139-147
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Facing a devastating security crisis, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe (2002­–10) concentrated power into the executive branch and moved the country toward delegative democracy. While history shows that delegative democracy produces a cycle of institutional weakening that is difficult to break, this trend reversed course under Uribe’s successor, Juan Manuel Santos. This essay argues that in delegative democracies with origins in security crises, strong judiciaries can impose limits on efforts to concentrate power. Even if judiciaries fail to stop initial moves towards delegative democracy, they can ensure that liberal-democratic institutions survive for the next round of politics.