There has been surprisingly little celebration of the tenth anniversary of the revolutions that brought down communism. The exaggerated hopes of the time have given way to disillusionment, but the real achievements of many of the postcommunist countries should not be discounted.
Volume 12, Issue 3
The evidence clearly points to the growing incorporation into international law of the right to democratic governance.
Francophone Africa in Flux
The 1990s began with an unprecedented democratic opening in Francophone Africa. While a number of countries have suffered setbacks and even reversals, others continue to make progress, and popular aspirations for democracy remain strong.
In 2000, Senegal experienced its first-ever electoral victory by an opposition candidate. Yet the social foundations that have supported one of Africa’s most liberal regimes are shifting, with unpredictable consequences.
Following a military coup in 1999 and flawed and violence-ridden elections in 2000, democracy in Côte d’Ivoire faces an uphill battle against the forces of xenophobia and ethnic chauvinism.
Since 1992, Mali has managed to preserve its democracy in the face of great odds. Continued vigilance will be needed, however, to prevent the gains of the past decade from slipping away.
After a failed democratic experiment in 1993-96 and two military coups, Niger successfully held free and fair elections in 1999. The next couple of years will be crucial to the long-term survival of democracy.
Contrary to the widespread perception that Mauritania has moved toward democracy, this troubled country faces continued ethnic tensions and the prospect of increasing repression.
A bloodless revolution toppled the corruption-ridden 13-year-old regime of Slobodan Milosevic and brought to power a team led by committed democrats. Although strains exist within the new 18-party ruling coalition, there are strong reasons for it to hold together during the current period of transition.
Women and Democracy
An increase in women’s political mobilization has accompanied the global trend toward democratization, but women’s movements have taken diverse paths in different regions of the world.
A country’s level of female political representation cannot be explained solely in terms of socioeconomic factors and political institutions. The evidence shows that political culture also matters.
Though the proportion of women in political office remains lower in Africa than in most other regions, African women exhibited new political energy and made unprecedented progress during the past decade.
The elections of 2000 reflected the profound disillusionment of the Romanian electorate with the performance of the centrist government of the past four years, rather than a turn away from democracy itself.
A review of “Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries, ” by Arend Lijphart; and “Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Views,” by G. Bingham Powell, Jr.