Waves of Democratization
Huntington defines a WAVE : group of transition from non-democratic to democratic
regime that occur within a specified period of time and that significantly outnumber transition in
the opposite direction during that period. In such waves, some other authoritarian regimes that do
not democratize nevertheless become liberalized. Democratization may also occur in democracy
themselves, improving rule of law and civil liberty.
First wave: a long wave, lasted from 17-19th cent.
•Democracy achieved through long social and economic processes that culminated in
revolution: people rose from below to demand for election and right to choose their own
•The cause of democratization is modernization: demands for voice and political
participation arose as a result of literacy, education, urbanization and the rise of middle
•E.g. Britain and France
Second wave after WW2 (1958)
•Countries become democratic by two ways:
1.Imposition: Germany, Italy and Japan had other countries impose on them
2.Decolonization: formation of new countries [e.g. India, Nigeria]
Third wave: begins Apr 19, 1974
•Portugal been under fascism for more than half the century:
•Portuguese dictatorship was overthrown in a military coup. The armed forces was split
into Conservative moderate and Marxist
• Democracy of Portugal was the beginning of a long way of democratic expansion that
continued for three decades.
•There were 40 democracies in the world at the time (industrialized European countries,
wealthy countries, several Caribbean, Island states that became independent)
•Since 1974, after the death of Spanish General: Spanish transition to democracy was a
model of negotiated or packed transition
•military rule began to unravel in Latin America (1979-1985): military withdrew in favour
of elected civilian government in Ecuador, Argentina, Peru and Brazil
•by mid 1980s, wave of democratization spread to Asia: first in Philippine, Korea then
•by 1987, third wave has spread to the point where about 2 out of every 5 state in the world
were democracies: all of Western Europe, much of Asia and most of Latin America.
Eastern Europe, Africa and chunks of Asian countries were still non-democratic however
*democratization is thus not universal/global but a regional phenomenon…*
•Fall of Berlin War (1989) and the collapse of Soviet Union (1991) were enormous moment
of democratic transition within third wave Collapse of communism and end of cold
war. Such changing conditions brought profound changes to Africa.
•What people feared about cold war was that it would result in nuclear war. Fortunately it
never happened, but it doesn’t mean cold war was not fought. In fact the two super powers
(U.S. and USSR) were involved in ‘proxy wars’ Korean War and Vietnam War, which
were initially domestic conflict. The super powers were fighting whether the countries /
regions would fall under democratic (US) or communist (USSR / Chinese) influence.
Wars were fought in regions that were strategically important. Many of these were fought
CASE :: War in Angola
•War began when the country gained independence in 1974 as a result of the Coup in
• When Portugal gives up its colonies, including Angola, there are three domestic revolt
groups that begin to fight each other in order to win Angolan government.
•One of these rebels won after independence and the other two became rebel opposition.
The group that became Angolan government identified itself as a socialist. As a socialist,
it received a help from the USSR
•South Africa fears Angola would fall communism. SA feels threatened, and aid rebel
group against Angola government (Unitah) to bring down them down
•What could’ve been a local conflict turns into international major conflict
neighbouring countries, US and USSR send armies to Angola, and it goes on for 20 years
•After the fall of Soviet Union at the end of cold war, everyone withdraws from Angola
•By 1990 most of African countries are free from super power’s interference
After the collapse of Communism and USSR
oBenin: coalition of forces and civil society organized in a national conference
declared itself sovereign and seized governing power from military Marxist who
had ruled for 18 years, and stared transition to democracy
oSouth Africa: apartheid regime release Nelson Mandela from almost three
decades of imprisonment and it began a process of political dialog
renormalization that led to first election
Dominion in Africa
There were only 3 democracies in all of Africa in Feb 1990.
From 1990, Africa experiences a rolling tide of democratic changes that came to be known as
Second Liberalization (First liberation being decolonization)
Africa in this period came under heavy pressure from international donors but also from their own
people. As a result, most African states felt pressure at least to legalize opposition party and open
space for civil society.
By 1997, only 4 of 48 African countries had not held a single competitive multi-party election at
the national level since 1990