The Dubious Role of Voting for Governments in Transition
The Law of Nationbuilding Seminar Paper – Fall 2006
Suppose one hundred individuals are asked to identify what makes a government a democracy. More likely than not, most of those individuals would respond with “elections.” Elections are remarkable occurrences in politics, as they represent a spirit of cooperation and conciliation not often duplicated when power is assigned and distributed. They are high-profile and photogenic, readily available for media capture and preservation. They are also popular, as waves of countries have converted their governmental structures to allow for elections—at least to some degree.
importance of elections—especially in the context of a country transitioning
from some form of non-democratic government—should not be overstated. Elections are merely a means to an end; they
are not an end in and of themselves.
Elections currently wield significant symbolic power for governments in transition. They are used to help resolve some of the uncertainties that accompany changes in government. For a country suffering traumatic events in its recent history, elections may also begin a long-term healing and rebuilding process.
In practice, however, elections tell a different story. They are very often accompanied by civil unrest and violence before, during, and after the event. They are commonly manipulated to generate results favorable to the party in power. Governments can use elections to pay lip service to democratic norms, for the benefit of the international community, even as it neglects arguably more important elements of a democracy. Even when held fairly and impartially, they do not necessarily reflect the will of the people of the transitioning country.
Elections put a fledgling democracy in a very vulnerable state and impose a good deal of responsibility on its citizens. Countries must invest in measures designed to ensure the transparency of the electoral process and the security of each person’s vote. Those contesting for power must be willing, in advance, to accept an unknowable outcome, even if that means they will lose. Those currently in power must be willing potentially to give up that power and step aside to allow different people lead the country in a potentially different direction. Those charged to count votes must do so impartially and accurately. When a government is accustomed to virtually unlimited authority, and when its citizens are unused to involvement in the political process beyond showing loyalty to a regime, these responsibilities can be overwhelming.
Although this paper
was prompted by events that have transpired from nationbuilding efforts in
Part I of this
article determines the significance modern political theorists give elections
in a democracy. It also weighs in with a
definition of democracy that puts elections in a more appropriate light for
countries in transition. Part II examines
what political theorist Samuel P. Huntington calls the “Third Wave” of democratization,
a movement that has expanded democracy’s visibility but mangled its spirit.
Part III explains why elections do not deserve the label of beacon of
democracy, given the record of past transitions to democracy. Part IV suggests some alternative benchmarks that
should be used in addition to (or in place of) elections that showcase a
transitioning country’s successful adaptation of democracy. The paper concludes by analyzing recent occupations
Part One: Pigeonholing the role of elections in a Democracy
To understand how elections should fit into a transition scheme from an authoritarian regime to a democracy, one should start by considering the role elections play in a developed democracy. Unfortunately, a definition of democracy often depends on the person whom one asks. While a specific, universally accepted definition of democracy will likely forever remain elusive, political scientists have more successfully presented a spectrum of relative significance that elections—among other elements of democracy—deserve.
At one end of the theoretical spectrum, democracy is stripped to its fundamentals. Democracy has no good or bad moral connotation; it is merely a form of government. According to Samuel P. Huntington, for example, democracy is nothing more or less than the regular holding of free and fair elections. He intentionally limits his definition to remove some of the ideological gloss from the word “democracy.” To him, elections are the sine qua non of democracy. Notably, even though he aims for a bright-line, mechanical definition, he adds qualifiers to elections; not just any kind of election will do. These qualifiers include terms such as “free,” “fair,” “meaningful,” and “competitive,” and elections without these elements do not fit even this minimalist definition.
At first glance, the qualifiers exist to ensure that obvious “sham” elections are not included as evidence of democracy. Practically, it requires a much greater effort than either expert may initially indicate. It requires that a country form a number of mechanisms or entities in preparation for elections. Organizations independent from any side must monitor the election process to ensure that it is not controlled by partial interests. The public must have some idea what the significance of the elections entails. Also, results have to matter, as one may only be able to see the consequential “fairness” of the elections after they have concluded. While this definition may be mechanical, it is far from simple in practice.
Others, such as political science professor John Mueller, strip democracy down even further. Mueller suggests that a democracy exists whenever a government is receptive and responsive to its public. Under Mueller’s democracy, the primary rights are the freedoms to organize, petition, protest, demonstrate, shout, and publish, among others. Elections, as formal mechanisms of expressing a certain preference, are simply unnecessary.
Closer to the middle of the spectrum, one sees elections as underpinning a democratic system but require it to be supported by additional political—and sometimes civil—freedoms. Here stands experts like Philip Pettit, who suggests that elections’ main function is to furnish an opportunity for an electorate to present certain common interests. While this is a necessary element of democracy, it is not a sufficient one. Pettit also suggests that a democracy should grant its citizens a “contestatory” right, where it may continually oversee—and sometimes directly challenge—the actions of an elected government. This way, elections, while still playing a central role in democracy, are buttressed by the public’s ability to ensure the elected representatives are working to further the public’s common interests.
At the other end of the spectrum lies experts including Robert Dahl, who subscribe to the philosophy that elections only tell part of the story; democracy requires some sort of political and civil liberties that allow citizens to life and participate in government freely. Dahl, for example, requires freedoms of expression and organization in addition to the freedom to vote for democracy to be meaningful. Several other classical theorists have also supported the important role of considering rights and liberties as synonymous with democracy. At this end, one is more likely to find in democracy an inherent connotation that this is a good and noble form of government.
C. The Shanbaum Doctrine
With this spectrum
in mind, the paper constructs a “Shanbaum Doctrine,” defining democracy and
elections’ role in it. The purpose of
the Shanbaum Doctrine is to produce a definition of democracy that would best
comport with a foreign policy aimed at spreading it to countries under
authoritarian regimes. In doing so, it
must reject Huntington’s and Mueller’s minimalist definitions of democracy. Inasmuch as democracy can be neutral with
regard to its citizens’ liberties and freedoms, it should carry some
connotation of “good government” (and thus include those liberties and
freedoms) if it is the kind of government U.S. feel obligated to export – as it
has attempted to do in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the
The Shanbaum doctrine defines democracy, beyond anything else, as rule by consent. Similar to O’Donnell’s definition of “contingent consent,” democracy requires consent among the three main actors in the system: the public as the governed populace, the governing body, and the individuals or parties who actively participate in politics but who do not govern (the “minority body”). The majority governors must consent to rule without abusing their positions of power, to rule within their electoral mandate, and to give up power by stepping into a minority role should they lose the next election. The minority body, in turn, must consent to act accordingly in their role in government and not wrongfully impede the work of the majority governors or the government as a whole. In turn, they are offered the future possibility to take over as the governing body should the public so desire. Finally, the governed as a whole must consent to be ruled under this schematic so long as they are able, on a regular basis, to determine the composition of the majority and minority governors. This is related to Robert Dahl’s “Criterion of Personal Choice,” where one consents to a governing body chosen by a process that represents the personal choices of the citizenry.
The consent on all sides must be actual and informed consent. These conditions are largely self-explanatory. “Actual” consent requires that the formal election results must reflect the actual wills and wishes of the citizenry, that the governing body is not coerced into acting against their or the public’s wishes, and that the minority body both knows its present role and is offered a future opportunity to change that rule. “Informed” consent means that the citizenry can choose among candidates based on ideological or policy differences among them, rather than be left to choose based on race, ethnic background, or culture. Informed consent also requires those institutions in place that would establish and regulate the power structures of government, so that both majority and minority parties would know the scope and limits of what they can do. Therefore, relatively common frustrations involving today’s elections such as voting under duress, voting without a meaningful choice of candidates, or denial of voting rights to ethnic, racial, or other minorities, does not constitute actual or informed consent and would not be considered a democracy under the Shanbaum Doctrine.
The public will be in a better position to give informed consent once they have developed interests in the effects of policymaking. One of the most effective ways of understanding a certain interest is to be exposed to it; in the political arena, the people are better off understanding the fruits of a democratic society when they become exposed to some of these fruits. Zakaria suggests that democracy is at its best (or at least its most coherent) when it is accompanied or preceded by some form of constitutional liberalism. Liberalization requires the creation of a civil society that respects the rule of law, individual freedoms and rights, including freedom of speech, press, religion, equal protection under the law, property, contract, and universal suffrage. Some of these factors, such as property rights, will give members of the public additional interests with which to make political decisions. While this will be discussed more fully in Part Four, it is still necessary that the public have either an experience or an understanding with some of these concepts for elections (and democracy) to matter.
Real change to democracy also requires an “elite” class that is not beholden to the government for its status, based on the premise that such a class will raise a separate set of interests in public discourse promoting economic freedom and self-preservation (and, in the process, potentially introduce other freedoms trickling down to and awakening the middle and lower classes). Change is difficult when the elite class within a country is inexorably tied to the government. This is the case with many Middle Eastern countries, in that most wealth has come from oil and other natural resources, resources that are either controlled by governments or fiercely regulated by them. The elites are often the class of people to initiate reforms in government, so in order for an ideal environment for the transition to democracy to exist, they would have to maintain some independence from the government.
For a country to be labeled a democracy under the Shanbaum Doctrine, that country must pass significant hurdles, and it may exclude several countries that have been labeled democracies under other criteria. This is intentional. As will be seen in Part Two, when the bar is set too low for a country to be considered a democracy, it undermines the struggles that its leaders must face to change the course of a country saddled with a history of authoritarianism.
Part Two: Analyzing the Spectrum in the Context of the Third Wave
has occurred in waves around the world,
The Third Wave
broke the earlier pattern in several ways.
As mentioned earlier, many historical governmental revolutions were
marred by violence and civil unrest, and war.
For Third Wave countries, transitions to democracy were handled peacefully,
with only a few exceptions. There was
relatively little fighting, few revolutionary upheavals, hardly any popular
revolt, and—except for
In some respects,
the Third Wave as a whole has been a tremendous success for democracy. First, democracy has become—almost by
default—the model form of government for countries transitioning away from
authoritarian regimes. Since the fall of
Once one goes beyond the initial success of the movement, however, one sees more troubling statistics. Many Third Wave governments were based on a Western—and more specifically, an American—model of democracy. Unfortunately, the American model of democracy is a difficult one to emulate for a country that did not share most of the other traits of the pre-Revolution American colonies. Specifically, emulating the American system’s presidential system of government—as opposed to a parliamentary system—leads to difficulty encouraging party consolidation.
The Third Wave has also brought about a change in how democracy is viewed, and this change is not for the better. Governments in power have driven home their holding of regular elections to justify calling themselves “democracies.” As a result, political theorists have had to reform their definitions of democracy to incorporate these new mutations. The Third Wave has brought to shore a remarkable number of variations on the democratic theme. Diamond refers to a study in which the authors find around 550 versions of democracy—nearly three times the number of countries in the world. These variations range from a slightly adjusted adaptations of a liberal democracy—where voting rights and civil liberties have not developed hand in hand—to dressed-up autocracies, where power is wielded and abused by individuals who manipulate the electoral process to their benefit.
For example, much
has been made about
The end result of the Third Wave transformations is that while democracy is becoming more popular, it may be becoming less “free,” and is thus becoming less of the “ideal” form of government to which people should aspire. In an annual study conducted by Freedom House, countries are rated on their political rights and civil liberties. They receive scores on each subject on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest degree of freedom on the subject.
The results of the study are telling. Of the 191 countries in the world, 128 are considered “electoral democracies,” or democracies that meet certain bare minimum standards. Of those countries, fewer than 90 are considered “free” democracies, or countries that would qualify as liberal democracies. Around half of those “free” democracies actually garner top scores in both categories. A further example: in 1997, after the Third Wave had ended, none of the newly democratized Latin American countries garnered a 1 on the civil liberties score, and only a handful received a 2.
Comparatively, the number of “partly free” countries—the label given to countries considered democracies but faced with significant political or social abuses (and a label associated with many of the Third Wave democracies)—has remained mostly stagnant since the end of the wave in 1995. Perhaps democratic consolidation is a time-consuming process and countries should not be judged on the success of their transitions before some unspecified point in the future. If that is the case, is it still right to consider this democratization movement an unmitigated success, or to allow these mutating governments over “partly free” countries to contain the word “democracy”?
present an even more grim picture. Transparency International annually presents
a study on corruption in government. As
will be discussed further in Part Three, corruption runs counter to many of
democracy’s goals, and should be minimized if democracy is to be
effective. The study, known as the
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), scores countries on a scale of 1 to 10,
where 10 represents a cleanly run government and 1 represents absolute
corruption. In 2005, less than a third of the 159
countries studied garnered a 5.0 or higher on the CPI scale. Many Third Wave democracies, including
Why has this happened? There are several possibilities. One conception about democracy that blossomed after the Third Wave is that democracy can sprout anywhere without the “pre-conditions” Zakaria and others have mentioned. While that may be true, many of those conditions speak to liberalization of society – these should not be ignored. Additionally, a basic electoral democracy lacks the institutions to watch over and combat corruption, both actual and perceived. Instead, the people must rely on the victors to regulate themselves with little or no guidance, a tall task for a new leader trying to steer a country from absolute rule.
Part Three: How do elections fall short?
A. Elections do nothing to prevent forms of tyranny.
As Ernst-Wolfgang Bockenforde, a German constitutional court judge, has famously noted, democracies cannot create the conditions of their survival and success. The democratic freedom to vote is hollow and meaningless unless it ensures that people can wield it to express and protect other rights traditionally associated with a democracy.
It is true that democracy depends on the governed expressing its political will through elections that are free, fair, meaningful, contested, uncertain in outcome, and regular in occurrence, but electoral democracy should only be seen as half of the picture. What is missing is an aspect of Pettit’s “contestatory” democracy, where the people have the power to oversee—and, if need be, contest—governmental decisions effectively. Arguably, the greatest shortcoming of elections is that they are incapable of doing much of anything about undemocratic, or tyrannical, behavior. Tyranny can be defined as absolute or oppressive power, usually wielded by the government, and usually exercised unjustly or cruelly. Tyrannical events can occur at all times and by all parties vying for power.
Most commonly, tyranny is exercised by the majority party in power resulting from elections. Tyranny by the majority starts with corruption: wielding authority in a way that promotes self-interest over the interests of those one represents, and in such a way that leads to the detriment of those represented. Corruption involves vote-rigging or tampering with elections, using bribery or extortion as a political tool. For governments in transition, patronage is often a large problem, especially when the party taking power is not the party that originally had it. While corruption exists to an extent with any democracy, as Transparency International has annually pointed out, a high level of corruption negatively impacts a citizen’s perception of the effectiveness of his or her vote. Worse yet, corruption during elections prevents those elections from reflecting the actual will of society, and redirects those results to mirror the wishes of the wrongful influence. Corruption in between elections reflects a failure of the governors to act according to the wishes of those who voted for him or her; instead the governors act on patronage appointments and bribery-based policymaking. It acts as a virus on democracy, and its effects are all the more acute when the host is a weakened and vulnerable system in transition.
If corruption is a relatively benign form of tyranny, oppression of minorities is significantly more harmful to the integrity of a democracy. Tyranny by the majority can be exhibited through oppression of minorities by race, culture, religion, or political beliefs. If left unchecked, tyranny of the majority culminates with popularly elected despots, those who wield absolute power and use the governmental system to further self-interests and the interests of the corrupting influences over the interests of the people.
erodes the concept of separation of powers, and it does so in a way that is
difficult for the public to notice and correct.
When an already-powerful executive consolidates additional political power
at the expense of other representative governing bodies, such a move is clearly
undemocratic and should be viewed with concern.
However, those subject to such behaviors may not be the ones who see
such problems. If they believe that the
leader is acting in the “best interests” of the country, they will accept
sometimes startling actions conducted by that leader. This is arguably the case in
Tyranny can also be exercised by the minority party or parties resulting from an election. Rather than abuse the democratic system, the minority rejects it altogether. Beginning post-election, the losing party claims that some aspect of the electoral process was illegitimate. It either demands a re-count or a re-vote, or it calls on its supporters not to recognize the controlling government altogether. If that call is heeded, those supporting the minority subject the regime to insubordination. From there, the ruling party’s job becomes much more difficult and complex; it must simultaneously manage a fledgling government and quell a discontented population. Should either task be completed improperly, discontent blooms into violence, and the newly formed democracy is nearly doomed to civil war or military coup.
B. Elections, when taken to their logical conclusion, do not adequately protect and represent the interests of the electorate.
While elections do not protect the system from defective officials who engage in tyrannical behaviors, Zakaria suggests that elections also fail to protect the people from a defective system. In this respect, one can easily have too much of a good thing. That is, when the people have too much power at the voting booth and use it to vote on substantive measures, it leads to inertia, where government reacts to rather than shapes public policy.
More dangerously, those who wield influence over such a system—focus group organizers, special interests, and the like—would end up more powerful than the elected officials, because the political checks and limitations installed by the governmental system do not reach those other groups. The ironic end result to all this is that as the public becomes more directly involved in democracy through voting beyond determining representation, fewer governmental matters deal with interests of the public as a whole. the paper refer to this strange situation as the “Zakarian paradox.”
What makes this paradox Zakaria’s is the level of attention he pays to the role of authority. In a proper democracy, governmental authority is often regulated. Those in power are usually required to disclose conflicting interests, donations from benefactors, and so on. Private organizations and individuals not subject to governmental oversight, however, no not share these same burdens, and have much more flexibility in how they act and how they try to influence public policy.
Why is this
wrong? Legitimacy in government comes
through oversight and regulation of those who otherwise make the laws. Separation of powers, federalism, judicial
oversight; all these mechanisms exist for the purpose of ensuring that
lawmakers operate under and conform to rules.
President Bush in 2004 famously declared that he had won considerable
“political capital” with his electoral victory that he intended to spend to get
certain laws passed. His declaration
underscores the importance of
Now, even the
Based on this paradox, the solution is not—as John Dewey exclaimed—to cure democracy’s ailments with more democracy, especially if democracy is reduced to the holding of free and fair elections. Contrary to this belief, the likeliest solution to the Zakarian paradox is to allow some insulation between governmental officials of a country and its people during its formative years. Government needs to be more efficient and “effective” during a transition/early consolidation period than it does after it has been fully legitimized. This does not mean a return to authoritarian regimes are necessary. Instead, the transition to democracy should be both incremental and broad in application, and elections do not belong in such a transition until they become useful. A political transition necessarily implicates some kind of change in civil society, social thinking, and economic reforms. As the rest of the transition falls into place, elections become more meaningful, as the people know they are voting for a candidate who will shape these other concerns to their approval.
Part Four: Finding a Replacement
If elections are not the practical summit of a transition to democracy, then what should we expect to find at that summit instead? The short answer is this: transition is more of a mountain range and less of a single summit. Transition is such a complex and uncertain process that no one event can serve as the defining moment in a transition to democracy. Additionally, so much about how citizens live in a country may need to change for a transition to be effective. Without a restructuring of civil society, or without the establishment of institutions that provide communication and oversight for citizens, elections will be purposeless and empty. Transition is a slow, incremental process that does not encapsulate itself well for the media.
As recently as the
That all being said, certain events should be considered “high-water marks” in a transition that mark that country as moving in the right place. None of these suggestions would be an adequate replacement on its own, but taken in tandem they could successfully define a country’s progress toward a building a successful democracy.
A. Formation of a Constitution
Arguably the first peak for a country transitioning to democracy is the formation of a Constitution. A constitution should define the democratic character of the transitioning country. The formation and acceptance of such a document indicates that the country is at least prepared to accept the necessary fundamentals of democracy, including establishment of rule of law, institutions for lawmaking, and, possibly, the creation of individual rights. It also carries significant symbolic significance, as the citizens of a country can point to a tangible document that defines and limits the powers of that country’s governors.
Although the formation of a Constitution is a contender worthy of attention, it raises a set of new problems. A constitution is only valid to the extent that it is supported by its country’s citizens. Therefore, who amongst a country’s citizens should help form it? Should convention delegates be appointed by the previous government, or should they be elected? Are there any specific requirements to becoming a delegate? When the convention is assembled, should they start from scratch or use a model from another country? The substance of the constitution to be formed generates a myriad of new questions as well.
recognize that a Constitution should be “custom-made” for that state. Americans carry a certain hubris about their own
Constitution. The Founding Fathers were
good to the
formation is a very dangerous activity once elections have been held. For example,
B. Reformation of Civil Society Via State Institutions; the “Top-down” approach
Formation of a Constitution, similar to the holding of elections, is more often than not a symbolic but empty gesture. As seen above, if timed incorrectly, it can have a detrimental effect on the overall health of the transitioning democracy. Perhaps the focus instead should be on the development of civil society, which would encourage public participation in furthering transition to a liberal democracy.
Defining “civil society” is a difficult task, mostly because it encompasses so broad a field. Carothers defines the term as “the space in a society between individuals and families, on one hand, and the state or government, on the other.” The key to civil society is that it is intermediary; it neither belongs to the state nor the public, but it exists to enhance the communication between the two and to ensure that the public gets what they expect from the governors. The space, however, can be filled by either side; state institutions typically come from the government and act as an additional vehicle for more direct public participation in the lawmaking process, while grassroots organizations are formed by the public to find common identities and to project its collective voice to the decision-makers. The point of having independent state institutions is to impose limitations on the government’s scope of power that even it cannot directly manipulate.
C. Reformation of Civil Society Via Grassroots Organizations; the “Bottom-up” Approach
Civil society, as noted earlier, is much
more than civic society, and many
other functions make up civil society exist that the
As mentioned earlier, reforming civil society is a slow, painstaking process that is rarely newsworthy; it does not have the sparkle or the glamour of a post-transition election. An additional strike against grassroots campaigns is that they are much more difficult to encourage or initiate. Externally, the public may well refuse to embrace a foreign occupier pushing grassroots organizations, concerned that such efforts are attacks on their native cultures or habits. Internally, most people lack experience in forming and maintaining such organizations. How does a charity work in a country that has never known volunteer work, where its citizens never had disposable income to donate? What good is a sports or social club when leisure time was rare and likely dedicated to digesting dictatorial propaganda? Many grassroots campaigns are based on altruism and accepting diversity. If a country has seen nothing but oppression or fundamentalist opposition, its individuals face a great struggle overcoming such an environment and embracing these characteristics.
D. Formation of a market economy
The formation of
some form of a market economy has historically been a pre-condition to
democracy. While a market economy can
certainly function under a non-democratic government (one need only look at
While a market
economy is an important indicator of a country’s ability to successfully
maintain a democracy, it is not necessarily a good benchmark to indicate
success of a transition in progress. The
added complexity of an economic transition may also slow, skew, or derail the
political transition. Lastly, of the
aforementioned alternatives, it is the one with the least correlation between
its occurrence and chances of political success. As indicated earlier,
E. Formation of meaningful political parties
Although the formation of political parties is another low-profile event that journalists have a hard time romanticizing, it is still worthy of consideration. Political parties reduce transaction costs for people to get involved in the political process. Parties are more effective at informing voters where they stand. The significance of elections at determining the “will” of the people is likely dependent on how well those people understand what the candidates stand for.
mitigate the effect of extremists within their ranks, as the goal is to present
an image that identifies with a majority of the citizenry.
For this to really work, at least two political parties must exist. That way, the political system involves a majority party working to create and shape the legal landscape while at least one minority party provides regulated and institutionalized opposition to scrutinize how the majority carries out its role. Although it would be useful to have an active minority party that carries some powers, the only real requirement here is that the minority party be vocal and active in the political theater.
Parties should also exist on lines that are not strictly drawn by religion, race, culture, or non-political philosophy. Organization along these lines takes no preparation by the organizers and requires no analysis by the citizenry. It is simple, and its simplicity contributes to being a popular, but undemocratic mechanism used by many transitioning countries. Parties organized along those lines can rely on (and often tend to convey) a platform solely based on intolerance of those who do not belong to the group, whether it is by extending special rights only to members of the particular religion or culture, by denying more fundamental rights to non-members, or by allowing or encouraging private biases to affect members’ actions toward non-members.
Given what is required to make parties effective, the stage is set for them to perform. Parties will gather information from the public with which they best identify, and from that information they prepare platforms of issues on which their members promise to pursue upon election. They will then vet and select candidates for office who are most capable of garnering a majority of votes from the public. These candidates should have some attractive qualities—such as intelligence, articulateness, ability to relate to ordinary people, and ability to simplify complex policy choices into sound bites.
The strength of
political parties varies considerably from country to country. In the
The downside to attaching much symbolic meaning to the creation of political parties is also imposing. In order for parties to communicate messages effectively to their constituents, they must have access to a free and independent media. This does not have to be limited to TV or newspaper press; candidates can find creative ways to communicate through the Internet, underground channels, or via door-to-door grassroots channels. However, until forms of communication that reach a majority of citizens are unlocked, parties cannot operate effectively.
F. Elections—or rather, election results—still deserve consideration.
Instead of focusing on the election, one should focus on the reactions of the new majority and minority leaders to the elections. With a successful transition, the concerns of tyranny by the majority or minority will be minimal.
This can be further explained under Dahl’s Criterion of Competence. With an election, one allows himself to be bound by the decisions made on his behalf by someone who maintains a certain level of “competence” on the subject of governance. In an election, the ideal results would have the most competent representatives elected more often than those less competent but more “popular” due to non-ideological concerns.
Elections are also best served as evidence of a successful consolidation to democracy. A country in transition has so many hurdles facing it that elections fail to act as any sort of checkpoint, as they can be conducted—even fairly and freely—at any point in the transition. However, elections may deserve a spot at the end of the transition when the international community is determining whether a country has cleared all other hurdles and shows that its democracy is at a point where the risk of it collapsing is no longer a concern. For example, Huntington’s “two-turnover” test—whether a government is able to hand over power to a different party or authority at least two times without violence or conflict—is a widely accepted view for when a government has successfully consolidated. This test requires one look not only at the electoral process but also at its results.
Given all the
different possibilities, it becomes clear that no single alternative acts as
the definitive sign that a country has begun or concluded a transition to
democracy. A peaceful transition takes
This conclusion is
all the more troubling when the
Conclusion: Putting it in Perspective
The majority of this paper assumes that the transitioning government came about as a result of an internal power struggle or an “opening up to freedom” by its current regime—usually as a way of legitimizing its own power in the international eye. It goes without saying that the problems discussed here are compounded several times over when the transitioning force comes from an occupying forces beyond its borders. In such a case, the transformation is artificial. Civil society has not had a chance to transform under its own process. Opposition leaders have not had time to establish themselves or their positions. Political parties, a vital form of public communication, are either hastily assembled or constructed without anyone understanding their significance or the public misidentifying their messages.
Up to this point,
the paper has avoided discussing recent policy failures in regime change. For the situation in
problem has plagued international forces working on regime change in Kosovo. Kosovo Albanians were initially thrilled that
the international community recognized their plight and came in an effort to
build Kosovo up for a potential break from
These examples shine light on an unfortunate fact: when one country attempts to force another country to transition its government to democracy, it has a very limited window to accomplish what may be an inordinate number of tasks. What lessons does this give to those who wish to promote democracy in the future?
Perhaps what is needed for the interim is a “liberal autocracy,” as Zakaria puts it. This form of government would be established for the sole purpose of overseeing the development of both state institutions and grassroots organizations. It would be closely watched and managed by external forces, to ensure that those in charge do not abuse their powers. As civil society transforms, and as the public’s desire for a more representative government grows, the autocracy’s powers would wane. Within the autocracy, governing individuals will likely unearth competing interests for the country, and they would use these interests as the basis for political parties to communicate to citizens for upcoming elections, which will be monitored both by internal institutions—created by the autocracy but independent from it—and external onlookers. Before the autocracy hands over its power to the newly elected democracy and dissolves, it would establish a Constitutional commission aimed to form a charter by which the democracy would rule and be ruled. While this may all sound fanciful, it allows for the development of the seeds required for a successful democracy while still providing a relatively stable form of government. While legitimacy among the citizens will always be a concern with transition, the autocracy finally provides needed insulation from the whims of the populace so it can do its job.
On the positive side, once the concept of democracy gains support among the governors and the governed, the focus should turn to consolidation rather than reaching the next transition benchmark. Or, perhaps consolidation should be considered as the ultimate “benchmark” for testing the success of a transition to democracy. As mentioned in Part Four, democratization is a slow and uncertain process. Diamond notes that of the Third Wave countries that are not “liberal” democracies, not one has consolidated its form of government. While consolidation is a topic almost as complex as transition to democracy, it at least carries some more tangible clues as to its existence, whether that be Huntington’s “two-turnover” rule—where a country must survive a shift in power through democratic means two times before it is deemed consolidated—or the more traditional “last game in town” rule—where no significant non-democratic influence exists in the country.
When a country has consolidated its democracy, it also gives the international community more reason to celebrate a successful transformation, as the stability of that transformation is much more assured. It also gives elections the best chance at fully accomplishing the meaningfulness and importance that the world has bestowed on them.
 Thomas Carothers, Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve 134 (1999).
 See, e.g., Steiner: No further negotiations with Serbs regarding participation in elections, Unmik Dep’t of Pub. Info. Local Media Monitoring, Oct. 24, 2002, http://www.unmikonline.org/press/2002/mon/Oct/lmm241002.htm (relating to mass Serbian abstentions from voting in post-NATO campaign Kosovo government); Michael Howard, Main Sunni party pulls out of Iraqi election, The Guardian, Dec. 28, 2004, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1380191,00.html (noting that the 2005 Iraq elections were boycotted by both moderate and conservative Sunni parties, who encouraged Sunnis to abstain from voting and not recognize the election).
real-life application of this fact is seen in
 Democracy has been alternately defined by its procedures, its purposes, and its sources of authority, giving an individual not one but three possible sources of conflict. See Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century 6 (1991).
 See generally Larry Diamond, Developing Democracy ch. 1 (1999) for a good discussion on the spectrum of democracy from the “electoral” to the “liberal” end.
Specifically, Huntington describes a “twentieth-century political system as
democratic to the extent that its most powerful collective decision makers are
selected through fair, honest, and periodic elections in which candidates
freely compete for votes and in which virtually all the adult population is
eligible to vote.”
 To his credit, Diamond does recognize that for elections to be effective, a country requires additional political rights of expression that are “unlikely to exist in isolation” from other civil liberties. Diamond, supra note 5, at 3. However, to consider these rights as merely secondary to the importance of elections still leads to the conclusion that they are not necessary in a democracy.
 John Mueller, Democracy and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery: Elections, Equality, and Minimal Human Being, 36 Am. J. of Political Science 983, 984-85 (1992).
 See Diamond, supra note 5, at 13 (discussing the contributions of political theorist Juan Linz).
 Phillip Pettit, Democracy, Electoral and Contestatory, in Designing Democratic Institutions 108-09 (Ian Shapiro & Stephen Macedo, eds., 2000).
 See id.
 See id.
 Thomas Carothers, Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve 91 (1999).
 See Larry Diamond, Elections Without Democracy: Thinking About Hybrid Regimes, 13 J. of Democracy 21, 21-22 (April 2002).
 See, e.g., David Braybrooke, Three Tests for Democracy: Personal Rights, Human Welfare, Collective Preference 13-14 (1968) (discussing the link made by democratic political theories between democracy, liberty, and “good governments”).
 See President George W. Bush, State of the Union Address (Jan. 20, 2004) (embracing democratization as a centerpiece of American foreign policy as an example of the government’s changing focus on foreign affairs).
 See Guillermo O’Donnell & Philippe C. Schmitter, Transitions From Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies 59-60 (1986).
 See Robert A. Dahl, After the Revolution? Authority in a Good Society 6-21 (1990).
 See Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad 151-59 (2004).
 These may include an interest in defending one’s property, which will help develop a an effective criminal and civil code, or the interest—to grossly oversimplify a complex matter—to use one’s property in a way that maximizes his or her wealth.
 See Zakaria, supra note 23, at 228-38.
 See O’Donnell, supra note 19, at 50.
notably, it would have definitely excluded the
 See id. at 4.
 Diamond, supra note 5, at 24.
 See generally Zakaria, supra note 21, at 78-87, although he makes the case that when a country begins a transformation, it is more likely to successfully consolidate when it meets some or all of the preconditions.
 Diamond, supra note 5, at 22.
 See Carothers, supra note 14, at 91-92.
 See Mikhail G. Filippov, Peter C. Ordeshook, & Olga V. Shvetsova, Party Fragmentation and Presidential Elections in Post-Communist Democracies 2-4 (California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Working Paper No. 1013, 1997), available at http://www.hss.caltech.edu/SSPapers/wp1013.pdf.
 Terry Lynn Karl, From Democracy to Democratization and Back: Before Transitions from Authoritarian Rule 8 (Stan. Inst. Int’l. Stud. Vol. 45, 2005).
 See id.; Diamond, supra note 5, at 7.
 See Zakaria, supra note 21, at 89-96.
 For example, according to a recent Diamond study, 80% of democracies were considered liberal democracies in 1974, before the start of the Third Wave. As of 2003, that number has dropped to less than 66%.
 According to Freedom House’s methodology, it gets its Political Rights score by looking at a country’s electoral process, level of pluralism and participation, and its functioning of government. The Civil Liberties score is obtained by analyzing a country’s level of freedom of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, personal autonomy, and individual rights. Its methodology is available at http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=35&year=2006.
 Diamond, supra note 5, at 47.
 Available at http://ww1.transparency.org/cpi/2005/cpi2005_infocus.html.
 Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuomintang.
 It is
noteworthy that Freedom House has given
Dahrendorf, Testing the limits of democracy,
 Pettit, supra note 11, at 106-07.
 See, e.g., http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dict.asp?Word=tyranny.
 See Zakaria, supra note 21, at 90-95.
cites the increase in popular referenda, especially in
 For more on specific problems raised by adopting a direct democracy, see generally Ian Budge, The New Challenge of Direct Democracy ch. 1 (1997).
 See Zakaria, supra note 23, at 240.
 Carothers, supra note 14, at 85-86.
 See Carothers at 162.
 Or, as one leader of the free world allegedly said at a staff meeting in 2005, the Constitution is nothing more than a “goddamned piece of paper.” See Doug Thompson, Bush on the Constitution: “Just a goddamned piece of paper,” http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_7779.shtml.
 See Diamond, supra note 5, at 221.
 See Carothers, supra note 14, at 158.
 See id. at 159.
 Diamond, supra note 5, at 222 (quoting from Thomas Metzger).
 See id.
 See Dahl, supra note 20, at 80-87.
 See, e.g., Dahl, supra note
20, at 84-85 (noting a “democratic corporatist” structure in much of Northern
 See Diamond, supra note 5, at 96.
 Carothers, supra note 14, at 86.
e.g., Jack Snyder, From Voting to Violence: Democratization and
Nationalist Conflict 176-79 (2000) for a discussion on party attempts to
draw on nationalist conflict for political gain in 19th century
 See id. at 181.
 See id. at 182.
 Dahl, supra note 20, at 21-30.
 Briefing with Press Secretary Tony Snow, Oct. 16, 2006, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/10/20061016-1.html: “The entire focus right now is not only to prevent a civil war, but to create a civil society.”
 See also Diamond, supra note 5, at 17-19.
 Diamond, supra note 5, at 20.