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DEMOCRACY AND DEMOCRATIZATION

Anastazija Ristovska. Spring 2011

On the economic and social conditions likely to lead a nation to transition to democracy
according to Modernization Theory:
Economic development relates to democratization in two ways: Democratic regimes emerge as
a result of economic development, or, whatever the reason a democratic regime emerged, it is
more likely to be sustained if a country is economically developed. According to modernization
theory, autocratic regimes transform into democracies as countries develop economically: as a
country develops, its societal arrangement complexifies, new interest groups emerge, the labor
and middle classes demand their rights, technological changes and private information
ownership foster autonomy among many segments of society, and, as a result of all of this, the
system can no longer be orchestrated from a single governing entity, the dictator; in order to
effectively run the system and satisfy the demands of the newly emerged complex civil society a
democracy-like constitutional order is required. In many transitions towards democracy, the
democratic constitutional order is achieved when the newly emerged large middle class, the
workers, the bourgeoisie rise against the autocratic regime and overthrows it. Thus,
democratization occurs alongside and as a result of modernization, and the gradual
specializations and diversification of societal structure which also results in a diversification
and differentiation of the political system.
The circumstances under which reformers (in a non-democratic regime) and moderates (in
civil society) agree on a negotiated transition:
A negotiated transition sees four main political actors: hardliners and reformers inside the
authoritarian ruling elites, vs. moderates and radicals in the opposition from society. These
four groups interact among each other, and the best possible outcome is achieved when
reformers and moderates reach an agreement. In such a case democracy is guaranteed, and
institutions are established under which the social forces reformers and moderates represent
will have significant political control. Reformers need institutional guarantees, and if
moderates are willing to provide them then reformers are likely to forgo a coalition with
hardliners and transition occurs. At the same time, hardliners and radicals must be placated.
In the example of South Africa there were conditions under which both opposing sides
expected advantages, the President was a reformer, the moderates in society under the
guidance of Mandela provided guarantees, a referendum happened, and as a result of these
favorable conditions a transition happened.
Some scholars have found that ethnically divided societies are less likely to transition to
democracy and more likely to face difficulty in consolidating democracy. A possible explanation
for this:
Democracy deals with inclusion and exclusion in the government and community, and the
access to power and privileges that go with inclusion and which are taken away from a certain
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group with exclusion. Ethnic divisions can often provide clear lines of who is most likely to be
excluded from political power. Ethnically differentiated opposition to government is often
perceived as resistance to popular will, embodying historical ethnic enmity, ill will regarding
the current authority of the state, and a plot to break up the state and steal parcels of its
territory.
Both of the two major recent economic theories of democracy -- Boix and Acemoglu and
Robinson refer to a kind of inequality as part of their argument. The way this concept differ
in the two arguments, in terms of how it inhibits or provokes democratic transitions:
According to Boix, excessive economic inequality in agrarian and resource rich society with
geographically non-transferable wealth aggravates social and political strife. The majority is
not satisfied with its lessened status compared to the wealthy minority. The majority demands
elections and an overturn of its diminished status, whereas the wealthy minority fears the
outcome of elections and a majority rule, thus resorting to authoritarian and often repressive
institutions to guarantee a preservation of their status and advantages.
According to A&R, democracy occurs when there is a commitment to future majority politics
by elite groups in the face of revolutionary threat. In this case the elites have two choices, to
either make a concession towards democratization, or to resort to repression; the calculation is
made of whether it would be easier for the elite to support the repression or to bear the
expenses of concessions. Inequality makes democracy more threatening and also increases the
demand for democracy.

The circumstances under which a presidential regime could be superior to a parliamentary


regime for providing public goods:

Presidential regimes are superior to parliamentary regimes in the provision of public groups
in less developed countries that lack the conditions necessary for the formation of the
nationally oriented parties required for the well functioning of a parliamentary system. These
countries often face sharp inequality in development across regions and class groups which do
not allow for the stable formation of parliamentary institutions and cabinets, either due to
multiple parties representing different regions or income groups, or the need for
manufacturing majority for one of the minority parties. In such cases presidentialism allows
for an electoral process that keeps elected legislators close to their regional constituencies, and
at the same time elects a president as an overarching executive authority that ensures the
policy making process is oriented towards the provision of public goods.
The main features of a "power sharing" (or consociational) system of government and the
circumstances under which these institutions are said to be most likely to benefit consolidation of
democracy:

In most cases of consociational system of governments the system is organized under


proportional representation. Plurality-majority electoral systems are sometimes adopted to
facilitate continued elite control. Proportional representation is preferred over plurality, with
the focus being on parties, and often there is conflict between fairness vs. decisiveness, and
representation of groups vs. accountability. An additional dimension is geographic
representation and the conflict of between the local vs. divisional interest. Intra-party diversity
is often an issue due to the likely formation of unified blocs, sometimes neglecting the quality
of candidates. Such systems seek to maximize the image of fairness, at the same time providing
consociational elite accommodation, as well as optimal conditions for leaders of groups to
negotiate on behalf of the group in order for groups to cooperate. Closed list PR provides local
representation only if regional parties exist, open list allows for the developments of
representatives own constituencies often with local representation within parties.
PR is the fairest method of electing legislatures because it ensures proportionality between
popular vote and percentage of seats won by a party. PR is also inclusive, ensuring all
significant political players are represented in the legislature, enhancing the prospects all
players will support the constitutional order by electoral and institutional participation. The
PR system, therefore, best benefits the prospects for democratization in plural societies with
deep cross-cutting ethnic, racial, linguistic, or religious divisions.
The types of political parties and candidates are advantaged under plurality electoral systems:
According to Duvergers law, constituencies using first-past-the-post (FPTP) are bound to
become two-party systems, making it most likely for a single party to hold a majority of
legislative seats. The plurality voting system as a single-winner system is used to elect
legislative representatives based on single-member constituencies. In this system the two major
parties are greatly advantaged over any other smaller parties. District candidates of the two
major parties have greater chances of being elected into parliament than do other party
candidates who lack the necessary percentage of constituencys support. Candidates are
elected regardless of whether they get a majority of district votes; they only need to get the
highest percentage of votes. In the UK General Election of 2005, the Labour Party won 35.2%
of votes and 55.2% of seats; the Conservatives won 32.4% of votes and 30.7% of seats, and the
Liberal Democrats won 22.0% of votes and 9.6% of seats. The Labour Party saw an advantage
from UKs plurality vote system with gaining less than 3% advantage in votes and more than
24% advantage in seats, without the need of forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
The way in which the use of party-list proportional representation can harm the quality of
democratic representation in new or developing democracies:
The use of party-list proportional representation (PR) provides different set of outcomes in
developing countries without well-developed parties and democratic institutionalization than
does majoritarian voting. In such countries PR can exacerbate the fractionalized nature of the
society which is often composed of several ethnic tribes or clans which form the primary
and most often only unit of political loyalty. Elections are thus based on mobilization of tribal
groups and violent contest among them, taking the focus off of issues of public policy or

ideology. The significance of clan and ethnic attachments is highlighted, mobilizing


traditional enmities.
In nations where elections might exacerbate ethnic conflict (and inhibit democratic
consolidation) some scholars argue that electoral systems can be designed to encourage
cooperation among groups. The way in which an electoral system could have this effect:
Electoral engineering in divided societies seeks to mitigate the destructive patterns of divisive
party rivalry by discouraging the formation of ethnic parties and thereby removing ethnic
divisions in the legislature. They encourage cooperation and accommodation among rival
groups, preventing ethnicity-based zero-sum contests between rival tribal groups. The best way
to encourage accommodation is to make politicians reciprocally dependent on votes from
groups other than their own. Electoral tools such as preferential (rank-order) voting,
including alternative vote (AV) and single transferable vote (STV). Preference voting is
supposed to represent minorities by allowing voters to express their sincere preferences.
Larger parties in turn, attempt to get those votes, which means they would have to appeal
outside their own group. This creates an incentive to moderate and create multi-ethnic parties.
Ackerman and Linz and Stepan have recently argued that a parliamentary system would be
superior to presidentialism for Egypt as it begins to build a democratic constitution. The reasons
why presidentialism might nevertheless benefit democratization in Egypt compared to
parliamentarism:
The transition from Egypts present autocracy towards democracy will be easiest under a
presidential system rather than a parliamentary one. A premature leap towards a
parliamentary system will require the enormous task of creating effective democratic political
parties. This would also shut the gates of the Muslim Brotherhood gaining control of a large
portion of the country and spreading its influence as the secularist, once forced to unite and
compete in a presidential system, would elect a single candidate outside the ranks of the
Brotherhood.