Subject: Democratic transition

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October 2019, Volume 30, Issue 4

Sudan’s Uprising: The Fall of a Dictator

Amid mass protests, the personalist autocracy of longtime Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir fell to an April 2019 coup. With the country now being governed by a council composed of both opposition leaders and powerful security- service coupmakers, prospects for democratization remain uncertain.

April 2019, Volume 30, Issue 2

Confronting Authoritarianism

In May 2018, the people of Malaysia transcended distinctions of class, religion, and ethnicity in order to vote for democracy and reform against a long-ruling party riddled with corruption.

April 2019, Volume 30, Issue 2

Armenia’s Velvet Revolution

In 2018, a peaceful protest movement brought down Armenia’s semiauthoritarian government and ushered in a new political era, the culmination of a long struggle for national pride, self-determination, and democracy.

January 2019, Volume 30, Issue 1

The Fates Of Third-Wave Democracies

Since their transitions, the democracies of the “third wave” have followed a range of trajectories beyond simple survival or breakdown. Many have stagnated at low levels of democracy and some have suffered democratic erosion, but there also have been cases of democratic deepening against the odds.

October 2018, Volume 29, Issue 4

The Downfall of Malaysia’s Ruling Party

In Malaysia’s May 2018 general election, a grand bargain between ex–prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and reform leader Anwar Ibrahim produced a political earthquake that ended 61 years of rule by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).

January 2018, Volume 29, Issue 1

Reevaluating Runoffs in Latin America

The worldwide popularity of runoff rules for presidential elections has grown strikingly in recent decades. In Latin America, contrary to scholarly expectations, this shift has had important benefits for democracy. 

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

Strengthening Constitutionalism in Asia

Liberal democracy can never put down truly firm roots in Asia unless and until the fundamentals of democratic constitutionalism take hold. There are seven practical imperatives that friends of constitutionalism in the region must pursue.

October 2016, Volume 27, Issue 4

Transition in China? More Likely Than You Think

Evidence from social science and history suggests that China is entering a “transition zone” that will threaten its capacity to maintain both authoritarian rule and high levels of economic growth.

October 2016, Volume 27, Issue 4

When Dictators Die

What political consequences can we expect when aging dictators die while in power? A fifth of the world’s autocracies are facing such a possibility, but the evidence shows that this may not augur well for democracy.

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April 2016, Volume 27, Issue 2

The Puzzle of the Chinese Middle Class

Seymour Martin Lipset argued that economic development would enlarge the middle class, and that the middle class would support democracy. To what extent will this general proposition prove true of China?

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April 2016, Volume 27, Issue 2

Burma Votes for Change: The Challenges Ahead

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept Burma’s November 2015 elections. Will the new NLD-led government be able to live up to high expectations that it will deliver better governance, national reconciliation, and some form of federalism?

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

Why Is Democracy Performing So Poorly?

The failure to establish modern, well-governed states has been the Achilles heel of recent democratic transitions, as democratization without state modernization can actually lower the quality of governance.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

The Weight of Geopolitics

Can democracy prosper when democratic countries are in geopolitical retreat? History cautions against the notion that democracy will inevitably prevail.

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January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

The Myth of Democratic Recession

In contrast to the conventional wisdom that democracy is in retreat worldwide, the evidence tells a different story: The state of global democracy has been stable over the last decade and is actually better than it was in the 1990s.

July 2014, Volume 25, Issue 3

The End of the Transitions Era?

Regime change will always be a feature of political life, but we are unlikely to see again transitions to democracy on the scale of the “third wave.”

July 2014, Volume 25, Issue 3

The Maidan and Beyond: The Russia Factor

The regime of Vladimir Putin has been a key driver of the crisis in Ukraine. Under challenge at home for several years now, it turned to Ukraine in part to firm up its own grip on power in Russia.

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April 2014, Volume 25, Issue 2

Ethnic Power Sharing: Three Big Problems

In severely divided societies, ethnic cleavages tend to produce ethnic parties and ethnic voting. Power-sharing institutions can ameliorate this problem, but attempts to establish such institutions, whether based on a consociational or a centripetal model, face formidable difficulties.

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April 2014, Volume 25, Issue 2

Mandela’s Legacy at Home and Abroad

Nelson Mandela, who died in late 2013, fought for freedom for all the people of South Africa and masterfully guided his country’s transition to a nonracial democracy. His record on foreign policy is more ambiguous, but also instructive.

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July 2013, Volume 24, Issue 3

Transforming the Arab World’s Protection-Racket Politics

The Arab world’s old autocracies survived by manipulating the sharp identity conflicts in their societies. The division and distrust that this style of rule generated is now making it especially difficult to carry out the kind of pact-making often crucial to successful democratic transitions.

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April 2013, Volume 24, Issue 2

Democratization Theory and the “Arab Spring”

In light of the “Arab Spring,” how should students of democratic transition rethink the relation between religion and democracy; the nature of regimes that mix democratic and authoritarian features; and the impact of “sultanism” on prospects for democracy?

October 2012, Volume 23, Issue 4

The Ethnocracy Trap

A political system in which power is formally divided among ethnic or sectarian groups may seem like a good idea in conflict-ridden societies, but it bears a high price and makes true democratic transition harder to achieve.

July 2012, Volume 23, Issue 3

Putinism Under Siege: Can There Be a Color Revolution?

The recent protests in Russia raise the question of whether the Putin regime could fall to a “color” or electoral revolution like those that have ousted other autocratic regimes in postcommunist Europe and Eurasia over the past decade and a half. 

July 2012, Volume 23, Issue 3

Senegal: What Will Turnover Bring?

Although Senegal has often been regarded as a democracy, its regime should more properly have been classified as competitive authoritarian. Will the 2012 election of a new president prove to be a turning point?

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April 2012, Volume 23, Issue 2

The Languages of the Arab Revolutions

The upheavals that have been shaking the Arab-Muslim world are revolutions in discourse as well as in the streets. Arabs are using not only traditional and religious vocabularies, but also a new set of expressions that are modern and represent popular aspirations.

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April 2012, Volume 23, Issue 2

Tunisia’s Transition and the Twin Tolerations

Of all the “Arab Spring” countries, so far only Tunisia has managed to make a transition to democracy. Tunisians now have a chance to show the world a new example of how religion, society, and the state can relate to one another under democratic conditions.

April 2012, Volume 23, Issue 2

Ballots, Bullets, and the Bottom Billion

Does recourse to the ballot box spur violence and instability in the world’s poorest countries? Despite the worries of modernization theorists such as Paul Collier, the evidence indicates that, over time, elections are not associated with higher levels of political violence.

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January 2012, Volume 23, Issue 1

Morocco: Outfoxing the Opposition

Morocco was not immune to the 2011 upheavals in the Arab world, but the country’s monarchy deftly managed the crisis through cosmetic constitutional reform.

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July 2010, Volume 21, Issue 3

Lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq

After almost ten years of complex and costly efforts to build democracy in these two countries, where do things stand? What lay behind the critical choices that shaped events in these places, and what are their current prospects for success?

July 2010, Volume 21, Issue 3

In Praise of Václav Havel

A tribute to Václav Havel, Czech playwright and former dissident, who became not only president but the symbol of the “velvet revolutions.”

April 2010, Volume 21, Issue 2

Indonesia: The Irony of Success

Indonesia is widely lauded as a democratic success story for rolling back the military, keeping radical Islam in check, and institutionalizing democratic freedoms. But this success has had costs in terms of democratic quality.

January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Twenty-Five Years, Fifteen Findings

A coauthor of the pathbreaking study Transitions from Authoritarian Rule reflects on the lessons that he has learned about democratic transition and consolidation since the publication of this work nearly 25 years ago.

January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Authoritarianism’s Last Line of Defense

The new electoral authoritarian regimes of the post–Cold War era have formally adopted the full panoply of liberal-democratic institutions. Rather than rejecting or repressing these institutions, they manipulate them.

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January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Why Are There No Arab Democracies?

Democracy has held its own or gained ground in just about every part of the world except for the Arab Middle East. Why has this crucial region remained such infertile soil for democracy?

January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Twenty Years of Postcommunism: In Search of A New Model

In the twenty years since 1989, acute excitement over democratic transition and consolidation gave way to symptoms of “democracy fatigue” and elite exhaustion; successful economic transition away from state socialism fell victim to a crisis of the free-market model; and the EU’s transformative power has reached its geopolitical limits. The nations of Central and Eastern…

January 2010, Volume 21, Issue 1

Twenty Years of Postcommunism: Citizenship Restored

The 1989 revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe were the triumph of civic dignity over Leninism. The first decade of postcommunism saw the project of an open society strongly challenged by ethnocratic temptations. The most important new idea brought about by the revolutions of 1989 was the rethinking and the restoration of citizenship.

October 2009, Volume 20, Issue 4

Jordan: Ten More Years of Autocracy

Jordan gets much good press for having one of the more open and liberal regimes in the Arab world, but that reputation masks a considerably grimmer reality.

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July 2009, Volume 20, Issue 3

China Since Tiananmen: Authoritarian Impermanence

Like all contemporary nondemocratic systems, the Chinese system suffers from weak legitimacy at the level of regime type. The most likely form of transition for China remains the model of Tiananmen, when three elements came together: a robust plurality of disaffected citizens, a catalytic event, and a split in the leadership. Had China chosen the…

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April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Religion and Democracy

The secularization hypothesis has failed, and failed spectacularly. We must find a new paradigm to help us understand the complexities of the relationship between religion and democracy.

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

The Consequences of Democratization

For the past few decades, scholars have been focusing on the causes of democratization. It is now time to devote systematic attention to analyzing the costs and benefits that democracy brings.

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Another Step Forward for Ghana

Ghana held its fourth successful elections in late 2008 and subsequently witnessed the peaceful handover of power from ruling party to opposition. The country’s leaders must now reform its institutions of governance.

April 2009, Volume 20, Issue 2

Kosovo: Independence and Tutelage

In February 2008, Kosovo broke away from Serbia and declared its independence. But to what extent is it making progress toward its goals of sovereignty and democracy?

January 2009, Volume 20, Issue 1

Can Cuba Change? Tensions in the Regime

Although the transfer of power from Fidel to Raúl has been relatively uneventful, potential divisions within the ruling elite, especially between the military and the Party, are likely to emerge before too long.