POLI 227 Lecture Notes - Small Arms, Authoritarianism, Democratic Consolidation
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APRIL 11, 2012:
How is it countries move from some authoritarian system to a more democratic system?
Revolutions- overthrowing the regime to end up with a democracy (ex. Tunisia’s
popular uprising). Generally, esp. with bloody, extended and violent revolutions,
they do not lead to democracy. The polarization, small arm proliferation, etc. create
a revolutionary authoritarianism. There could be a period of chaos, civil war, etc.
which increases the risk of having another revolution.
Military coups- rarely actually deliver democracy and usually lead to authoritarian
External intervention- it depends on what the population wants in the first place
Incrementalism/internal reform- as opposed to quick change
o Regime-led (they may miscalculate their power- ex. Pinochet’s constitution lost
at the ballot box). This happened inmost of Western Europe.
Internal fragmentations among authoritarian elites- authoritarian regimes that
transition to democracy have a conflict between hard-liners and soft-liners.
Without this fragmentation, it is much harder to get change.
Paradox of political mobilization- on one hand, mass public protests/strikes are
useful in pushing reform, but it overdone, it will push the regime into hardline mode
and force a crackdown.
Political pacts- an agreement whereby the authoritarian elite gives up power,
characteristic of the transitions in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s. There is
some agreement between the opposition, the authoritarian elite, and those in the
middle, on the rules of the game.
o Set rules of the game for the transition, reassure outgoing authoritarian
o There may be an authoritarian dictator who has committed violations of the
rights of citizens, but the easiest way for them to leave is guarantees
(military won’t be prosecuted, immunity, their political party can compete in
o “lie and cheat”: get them out of power, complete democratic consolidation,
and then go back on your word
Process of elections: elections are about unpredictability, but authoritarian elites
may not be willing to leave power if they don’t know who will follow them. Often
part of the pact is to design an electoral system that will disadvantage those against
the regime (ex. Latin America)
Democratic consolidation: Will it last?
o Ending impunity- an undoing of guarantees (establishing the cost of
engaging in a military coup)
o Democratic deficits (discrimination, income disparities)
o Political culture (ex. Why is there no risk of a military coup in Canada?)
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