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In this article the special issue on the future of democracy is introduced with a discussion of the rationale and a brief overview of the contributions that follow. In addition the authors highlight four major themes that run through the special issue. These themes are: the measurement of democracy, the importance of time and context for understanding democracy, the importance of institutions in the process of democratization, and the differential role of government and opposition in democracy. The article finishes with a conclusion about the plural nature and possible futures for democracy.
Capitalism and democracy have transformed the world, but not in a harmonious way. This article provides a broad overview of the major driving forces of democracy, its relationship with ongoing socioeconomic developments and some of the countervailing factors. It points to the inherently conflictive nature of democratic procedures and decision-making, but also emphasizes the potentially universal implications of basic democratic values. Against this background, the future prospects of democracy and possible alternatives in the age of globalization are assessed. All this is based, as far as space permits, on the huge body of available theoretical and empirical literature, but also on the author’s long-term preoccupation with this topic and some of his personal views and experiences.
Politics in Latin America continued to be about democracy after the democratic transitions in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s. An old concern – securing the minimal standard of democracy that had served as the goal of democratic transitions – remained relevant. But a new concern – the attainment of more than a minimal democracy – transformed politics about democracy. Actors who supported and opposed neoliberalism – the key axis of ideological conflict – advocated and resisted political changes in the name of different models of democracy. And the conflict over which model of democracy would prevail shaped Latin America’s post-transition trajectories, determining how democracy developed and, in turn, whether democracy endured.
An influential approach in the scholarship has stressed the ‘robustness of authoritarianism’ in the Arab world. While this approach has generated a rich research programme yielding valuable insights, it has also contributed to a widespread tendency to downplay the significance of the 2011 uprisings. A perspective that is broader both temporally (going back to the aftermath of the Ottoman Empire’s collapse) and spatially (to include Turkey, another successor state to that same empire which may serve as a useful negative case) can illuminate not only variations between regional states, but also convergences – such as the expansion of political mobilization and participation, or the emergence of Islamism versus secular nationalism as a key axis of ideological conflict – that suggest less pessimistic conclusions about the prospects for democracy in the longer-term future.
Strong institutionalized parties are often seen as vital for healthy democracies. The Indian case, therefore, represents a strange paradox: many parties are weak, corrupt and personalistic, yet democracy as a whole seems to be thriving, with increasing turnout and apparently strong popular support for democratic procedures and norms. This article explores some of the reasons for this strange outcome and suggests that the existing literature on party institutionalization might need some revision.
Post-Cold War autocracies appear novel in their use of multiparty elections, attracting the attention of scholars and policymakers alike. A longer historical view, however, reveals that what is unique is not electoral authoritarianism after 1989, but rather the electoral inactivity of autocracies during the Cold War period. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, authoritarian regimes have held multiparty elections. The prevalence of these elections begs the question of whether they have any effects on political liberalization and democratization. But the study of authoritarian elections in processes of political change faces a number of theoretical and empirical challenges that can only partly be surmounted with existing approaches.
This article aims to bring the people to the heart of democracy measurement. Existing measurements have reinforced the idea that democracy is the domain of the state with its procedures, institutions and political elites. But where are the people in those measurements? So far, when we measure democracy we rely on experts who determine what democracy is, while people’s views have been ignored. This happens not only during the phase of conceptualization, but also during operationalization. The specific way we measure democracy feeds elitism and is emblematic of how our discipline has developed, namely an ivory tower in which political scientists define and measure democracy without taking people’s views seriously. The article proposes new people-centred measures of democracy and discusses their effect on the rankings of countries and their strengths and weaknesses. The future of the study of democracy lies in developing new measures that challenge our current understanding of democracy and assist us in developing new perspectives, thus reinvigorating democracy studies.
Many democracies are widely perceived to be suffering a serious crisis of representation, participation and legitimacy. As part of this ‘crisis’, the male domination of democracy – both in terms of its institutions and who participates – has been identified as problematic, even emblematic, of a more generalized democratic crisis. Increasing the participation of women is advocated as one solution. Using examples drawn from both long-standing and newer democracies (parliamentary and presidential), particularly from Europe and Latin America, this article explores the gender dynamics of the ‘crisis of democracy’. The ‘crisis’ has two gendered aspects. First, and paradoxically, although democracy still privileges predominantly white, elite, heterosexual, men, more women now participate in democratic institutions, leading to claims that the ‘male monopoly’ has ended (Dahlerup and Leyenaar 2013). Second, the ‘crisis of democracy’ may provide opportunities to further enhance women’s participation, as the demands of those favouring greater gender equality and those looking for solutions to the ‘crisis’ appear to coincide.
Over 90 per cent of the world’s states currently select their national leaders through multiparty elections. However, in Africa the quality of elections still varies widely, ranging from elections plagued by violence and fraud to elections that are relatively ‘free and fair’. Yet, little is known about trade-offs between different strategies of electoral manipulation and the differences between incumbent and opposition actors’ strategies. We theorize that choices for specific types of manipulation are driven by available resources and cost considerations for both incumbents and opposition actors, and are mutually responsive. We also suggest that costs of manipulative strategies are shaped by the level of democratization. We test our hypotheses on a time series, cross-sectional data set with observations for 286 African elections from 1986 to 2012. We find that democratization makes ‘cheap’ forms of electoral manipulation available to incumbents such as intimidation and manipulating electoral administration less viable, thus leading to increases in vote buying. The future of democracy in Africa thus promises elections where the administration of elections becomes better and better but at the same time vote buying will increase. Not all things go together, at least not all the time. The future of democracy in Africa will mean more money in politics, more patronage and more clientelistic offers thrown around, at least in the short to medium term.