Thursday, 28 February 2013

How Can We Achieve Consolidation of Democracy?




Prime Minister Hun Sen gave a toast with President Barack Obama at Gala Dinner during ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh on 19 November 2012. Human right, democracy, freedom of speech were on the agenda during Obama's bilateral meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister. 


Democracy continues have its momentum into the 21st century while new democratic countries are trying to promote economic development, and strengthen rule of laws, and anti-corruption efforts, and uphold the protection and promotion of human rights, and so on. At the same time, the sense of regional integration and cooperation (G20 Summits, East Asia Summit, and the recently ASEAN-US Summit) are higher than ever for some countries in order to find better solutions to promote regional peace and stability, global economic growth, and regional economic cooperation to fight against the global financial and economic crisis, which could have consequences of political and social crises such as unemployment, violence, political turmoil, etc. All of these efforts are aimed at one common purpose to maintain political and macroeconomic stability of democratic countries so that they can avoid taking the same harmful historical path of the 20th century.

Democracy needs to be strengthened and deepened so that it can continue to thrive and, for a vital purpose, last for a long period of time. In contrast, democracy can be eroded and fallen and authoritarianism and dictatorship are looming around. That is why some scholars are discussing about “Consolidation of Democracy” to express their concern and suggestion on how and why democracy needs to be consolidated. Several scholars on democracy have different views on how to achieve consolidation of democracy, which will be elaborated below. After you have read this article, you might get some practical idea on how Cambodia should achieve its democratic consolidation since UNTAC-led election in 1993. Cambodia will conduct its parliamentary election in July 2013 with the total of approximately 9 millions registered-voters, most of them are younger generation of Cambodians.


First, Larry Diamond, in his Article of “Consolidating Democracy”, asserts that consolidation is the deep and routinized commitment to democracy to reduce uncertainty of democracy and involves the widening of the range of political actors who come to assume democratic conduct toward their rivals. Consolidation takes place in two dimensions (norms and behavior) on three levels. At the highest level, the country’s elites, the top decision makers, organizational leaders, and political activists, are influencing most for the stability and consolidation of democracy, not only in their behaviors but also in their beliefs. At the intermediate level, parties, organizations, and movements have their own beliefs, norms, and patterns of behavior. To the extent that they operate as collective actors with many members and some coherent goals and tactics, their actions have consequences for democracy. At the level of elites and organizations, it is easier to observe the phenomenon of democratic consolidation in its inverse: the signs of fragility, instability, and non-consolidation. At the level of the mass public, consolidation is indicated when the overwhelming majority of citizens believe that democracy is the best form of government in principle and that it is also the most suitable form of government for their country at their time. For consolidation of democracy, he argues that there are three generic tasks that all new and fragile democracies must handle if they are to become consolidated: democratic deepening, political institutionalization, and regime performance. First, deepening makes the formal structures of democracy more liberal, accountable, representative, and accessible. That means make it more democratic. Second, political institutionalization is also crucial to the deepening of democracy by strengthening the legislature and the judiciary system without interference from the executive branch and the military. In short, political institutionalization strengthens the rule of law and also heightens normative commitments to the democratic system. The third task of consolidation is regime performance which refers to sufficient and positive policy outputs produced by democratic regime to build broad political legitimacy.

Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, in their Article “Toward Consolidated Democracy”, starts their arguments on consolidation of democracy by saying three minimal conditions before speaking of democratic consolidation. First, a state must exist before free and authoritative election can be held. Second, democracy cannot be thought of as consolidated until a democratic transition has been brought to completion. Third, no regime should be called a democracy unless its rulers govern democratically. Essentially, a “consolidated democracy” means a political regime in which democracy as a complex system of institutions, rules, and patterned incentives and disincentives has become the focus of the regime. They work on the definition of a “consolidated democracy” based on three dimensions: behaviorally, attitudinally, and constitutionally. Behaviorally, a democratic regime is consolidated when no leader spends significant resources to achieve their objectives by creating a nondemocratic regime. Attitudinally, a democratic regime is consolidated when a strong majority of public opinion believes that democracy is the most suitable to govern their collective life. Constitutionally, a democratic regime is consolidated when there is the rule of laws which control the governmental and nongovernmental forces. In addition to a functioning state, five interconnected conditions must be present or be crafted in order for a democracy to be consolidated. First, the conditions must exist for the development of a free and lively civil society. Second, there must be a relatively autonomous political society. Third, there must be a rule of law that protects individual freedoms and associational life. Fourth, there must be a state bureaucracy that is usable by new democratic government. Fifth, there must be institutionalized economic society. However, there are two surmountable obstacles to democratic consolidation: ethnic conflict in multinational states and disappointed popular hopes for economic improvement in states undergoing simultaneous political and economic reform. These two problems have considerable effect on consolidation of democracy as it can provoke ethnic violence and social crisis. In their conclusion, they suggest that it should be clear that consolidation does not necessarily entail either a high-quality democracy or a high-quality society. The quality of democracy can contribute positively or negatively to the quality of society, but that the two should not be confused.     

Andrea Schedler, in his Article of “What is Democratic Consolidation?”, begin his work on the meanings and patterns of “democratic consolidation” by looking at the concrete realities as well as the practical tasks the term is mean to address. The notion of democratic consolidation depends on where we stand and where we aim to reach according to the contexts and goals. For his analysis on concept of democratic consolidation, there are four-fold classifications of political regimes: authoritarianism, electoral democracy, liberal democracy, advanced democracy. Five concepts of democratic consolidation are identified. First, preventing democratic breakdown is to prevent the move from electoral or liberal democracy to authoritarianism to avoid an authoritarian regression, a “quick death of democracy”. Second, preventing democratic erosion is to prevent the move from liberal democracy to electoral democracy, “the slow death” of democracy. Third, completing democracy is the move from electoral democracy to liberal democracy. Fourth, deepening democracy is the move from electoral or liberal democracy to advanced democracy. Fifth, organizing democracy is move within liberal democracy itself for improvement by establishing specific rules and organizations. In conclusion, democracy is a moving target, an open-ended, developmental kind of thing – and so is democratic deepening.  

Guillermo O’ Donnell, in his Article of “Illusions About Consolidation”, raises that it is impossible to specify when a democracy has become “consolidated”. Based on Dahl’s definition of polyarchy, as long as elections are institutionalized, polyarchy are likely to endure. The illusion is the view that democracy would soon come to resemble the sort of democracy found in the admired countries of the Northwest, especially on their long-enduring regimes and their wealth, and because both things seemed to go together. His concern is that polyarchies are institutionalized in ways we dislike and often overlook, even if they do not – and some of them may never – closely resemble the “consolidated democracies” of the Northwest. There are also other scholars who share the same concern as O’ Donnell on this illusion.

Thomas Carothers, in his Article of the “End of the Transition Paradigm”, also concludes that the transition paradigm was a product of a certain time. It is necessary for democracy activists to move on to new frameworks, new debates, and perhaps eventually a new paradigm of political change which is suitable to the landscape of today, not the lingering hopes of an earlier era.

Michael McFaul, in his Article of “The Fourth Wave of Democracy and Dictatorship: Non-cooperative Transitions in the Post-communist World”, raises questions that why did some states abandon communism for democracy, while others turned to authoritarian rule? Why are some states stuck in between? His article proposes an argument to explain regime change in the post-communist world, especially Central Asia and Eastern Europe. These transitions from communist rule to new regime types are so different from third wave democratic transitions in the 1970s and the 1980s that they should not be grouped under the third wave. Instead, de-communization triggered a fourth wave of regime change – to democracy and dictatorship in Ukraine, Romania, and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, etc. His main argument is that it was situations of unequal distribution of power that produced the quickest and most stable transitions from communist rule. In countries with asymmetrical balances of power, it was the ideological orientation of the more powerful party that largely determined the type of a regime to emerge. Therefore, Democracy emerged in countries where democrats enjoyed a decisive power advantage. Conversely, in countries in which dictators maintained a decisive power advantage, dictatorship emerged. In between these two extremes were countries in which the distribution of power between the old regime and its challengers was relatively equal. Such situations in the post-communist world resulted in protracted confrontation, and unconsolidated, unstable partial democracy and autocracies. In addition two more factors must be considered: the presence of territorial disputes which make the leader to likely embrace autocracy and the proximity to the west which enable countries to hold democracy. There are two approaches to regime change: cooperative and non-cooperative. In cooperative approach to regime change, political actors (hard-liners, soft-liners, moderates, and radicals) negotiate for a pact that navigates the transition from dictatorship to democracy. From this perspective, negotiations, compromises, and agreements are central to making democracy. In a non-cooperative model of transition, there is no cooperation between the regime leaders and political challengers while the political outcomes are based on the balance or distribution of power. This model of regime change offers a more comprehensive explanation of all post-communist regime changes than does the framework outlined by the earlier analysts of third-wave transition. In his causal paths of post-communist regime change, he finds that a distribution of power clearly favoring democrats at the moment of transition has helped to produce liberal democracy ten years later. A distribution of power clearly favoring dictators of the ancient regime has yielded new forms of authoritarian rule a decade later. So, both causal paths have resulted in stable regimes. In contrast, a balanced distribution of power has resulted in a range of unstable political outcomes. Within these causal paths, three impositions are identified: from below (hegemonic democrats) or from above (hegemonic autocrats), and stalemate transition (protracted confrontation). His conclusion is that the balance of power and ideologies at the time of transition had path-dependent consequences for subsequence regime emergence.  

In conclusion, Larry Diamond has contributed his ideas on how to see a democracy has been consolidated with the basis on two dimensions (norms and behavior) on three levels (top elites, organizations, and mass public). Within this framework, one can determine whether democracy is fully consolidated or not. In his view, three tasks (democratic deepening, political institutionalization, and regime performance) must be completed by a new and fragile democracy. So, his main idea is on how to make a democracy consolidated. However, he did not explain the interaction between the political actors in the transition and obstacles to democratic consolidation. 


For Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, they provided the prerequisites of democratic consolidation, gave definition of a “consolidated democracy”, and outlined the conditions for a democracy to be consolidated. Their ideas are similar to those of Diamond. Interestingly, Linz and Stepan also warned about the obstacles in the transition paths which could retard the transition process. There are also links between consolidated democracy and market economy and between democracy and the quality of life. However, the two authors did not apply any theoretical framework or transition pattern of regime change. 

For Andrea Schedler, He used empirical viewpoints and normative thinking to locate the transition path and the goal to be achieved (advanced democracy). A clear distinction of regime classification has been made to see the pattern of transition paths to democratic consolidation. He also provided cause and effect analysis in each concepts of democratic consolidation. However, no specific example of countries has been provided. 


O’Donnel used Dahl’s theory of polyarchy to explain definition of democracy and, then, point out the illusion of democratic consolidation. With Dahl’s seven attributes of democracy, he provided a comparative analysis with countries in Latin America. Nevertheless, he did not give any reason on the illusion. 


For Thomas Carothers, I think he added on the work of O’Donnel on the illusion. He made quite a good contribution on the end of the transition paradigms to indicate that we should no longer base on the old paradigms they are different from present situations of any country. There are core assumptions to define the transition paradigm and also the use of dominant-power politics to see domestic politics in various countries (for example, Cambodia and Malaysia). However, he provided little explanation in case of each country. 



For Michael McFaul, he explained the phenomenon of the fourth wave of democracy and the reverse wave, dictatorship, in several countries in Central Asia and Eastern Europe in detail. He used the theory of balance of power and distribution of power to explain the emergence of democracy, authoritarianism, and stalemate or prolonged political crisis with his causal paths of post-communist regime change. However, he only studied the phenomenon and how it happened. He did not give any solution on how to achieve democracy or avoiding dictatorship.



Other similar articles on democracy: 

      (2 June 2012)

    (26 May 2012)

    (16 January 2012) 

    (18 August 2011)




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