POL112 - The Spirit of Democracy - Reading Notes
Chapter 3 - The Democratic Recession
October 12, 1999 - Pakistani military overthrew country's constitutional democracy after a decade
of growing political corruption, confrontation & violence.
Attempt by PM Nawaz Sharif to replace the armed forces chief of staff, General P. Musharraf w/
a close family friend.
Eventually Sharif & his cabinet were arrested (along w/ many other politicians & senior
bureaucrats). Musharraf → "Sharif had played around with state institutions & destroyed the
economy & had tried to destabilize, politicize, & divide the armed forces."
Musharraf declared a state of emergency, suspended the constitution, removed the leaders of all
of the country's democratic institutions & named himself the "chief executive" of the country,
while ordering that the courts could not consider the constitutionality of the military seizure of
Musharraf → The military would rule Pakistan through a national security council & a cabinet of
technocrats → "return the country from the current 'sham' democracy to a 'true' democracy."
Coup had met with overwhelming public support. No one from Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League
(PML) opposed Musharraf or supported Sharif → shows how isolated the PM had become from
public opinion & from his own party.
2 reasons the Pakistani coup was the single most serious reversal of democracy (during the 3rd
wave) : Largest country to have suffered a breakdown of democracy since 1974. Other big &
strategic countries like Turkey, Thailand, Sudan had suffered military coups but the military had
Pakistan was also the most powerful, strategically influential country to have suffered a
democratic breakdown since the Turkish coup in 1980. It had nuclear weapons, but had also
become a major source of terrorist training & finance & of Islamic militancy.
Pakistan's democratic breakdown had fundamental causes, each of which eroded the legitimacy of
the civilian constitutional regime & left it incapable of managing political conflict peacefully.
First, the justice system & the rule of law had deteriorated. The judicial system was corrupt &
flexible under the Bhutto & Sharif administrations. Executive power was personalized & criminal
prosecutions were politicized. Press freedoms were curbed, civil liberties were abused. Sharif
increasingly relied on the military to maintain order & administer the country.
Second, Pakistan was increasingly polarized along ethnic & religious lines. Diverse groups felt
they were being marginalized. Minority regions felt alienated & ethnic political parties as well as
extremist religious movements turned to violence.
Sectarian violence b/w militant Shia & Sunni Muslim groups dealt an additional blow to political
stability, escalating violence, terrorism, & insecurity while rejecting the legitimacy of democracy.
Third, Pakistan was unable to achieve the economic growth necessary to reduce widespread
poverty. Capital fled, unemployment rose, & legitimate economic activity increasingly gave way
to the smuggling of drugs, weapons, & consumer goods.
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Third Wave Reversals
Defining features of the 3rd wave → small # of breakdowns of democracy. Since Pakistan's coup,
democracy has been extinguished by the undemocratic actions of elected presidents in Russia and
Strategic Swing States - 23 states outside the industrialized West that either have populations over
80 million people or have gross national incomes over $130 billion. These countries expose a
decidedly mixed picture of democratic progress, either by achieving transitions to democracy or
by improving the quality of democracy as in Brazil, Turkey & Taiwan to name a few.
Russia, Venezuela, & Nigeria → most imp. reversals of democracy aside from Pakistan &
Thailand. Each of the 3 countries derive most of their government revenue from oil exports.
Democracy has been subverted from within while its outer institutional shell of legitimacy has
been superficially preserved.
Turning back democracy in Russia
Russian democracy under Yelstin was in many ways superficial & chaotic, plagued by weak
political parties, the constitutional concentration of power in the presidency, "a disengaged civil
society, the lack of an independent judiciary, & declining popular support for democracy."
Official corruption & collusion in the privatization process reached a monumental scale →
"feudalization of the state".
Putin → appointed PM in August 1999. Putin won a resounding 1st-round victory in March 2000,
with 53% of the vote. Putin centralized power in the Kremlin & gradually repressed every
independent source of power & accountability.
He covered a layer of 7 "super regions" with his appointees, who controlled vast access to
resources. He stacked his own cabinet & Kremlin staff with former state security & military
officials (the siloviki) who were loyal to him & hostile to democratic pluralism.
Russia ceased to be a democracy in 2000, when Putin moved vigorously to eliminate the checks
& balances in the creaking constitutional system. By the end of 2004, Freedom House classified
Russia as authoritarian & downgraded it from "partly free" to "not free" status for the 1st time
since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Venezuela's political descent had its seeds in the early period of domination by 2 powerful,
factionalized parties that constrained political competition & divided up the oil income.
As global oil prices weakened in the 1980s, the economy contracted & living standards declined
while public corruption continued at high levels & crime soared. In December 1998, Chavez was
elected Pres. on a radical populist platform, pledging to lay the foundation of a new "Bolivarian"
With his supporters dominating the constituent assembly & the public disenchanted with the old
parties, Chavez quickly obtained a new constitution that greatly strengthened the powers of the
presidency, lengthened its term & allowed re-election, weakened the national legislature, &
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dismissed the existing Congress & Supreme C. Even w/ a 5-fold increase in oil prices in 3 years,
his reckless spending was driving the economy into serious fiscal deficits & inflation.
Money & Democratic Prospects in Nigeria
Oil wealth has spoiled democracy in Nigeria. The promise of democratic reform was wasted in
the early 2000s