As I finish my paper today,I realized I needed some more information about theories that had to do with transitions to democracy. I found some work by Huntington that outlined the Third Wave of Democracy, which included Spain. It was very helpful for this section of my paper. I also found a few other theories in transitions that did not seem to match up with Spain’s model. It was difficult for me to find theorists that advocated and were positive about peaceful transitions like Spain had. I suspect this is because that is a rare occurrence. I had to really look to find theories that supported a peaceful transition but I finally found a few things that would work for this last piece of my paper.
I think the most interesting thing I ‘learned’ was how my ideas of democracy changed as we read more and more material. In the first weeks, the class listed characteristics that make up democracies. Like many of my peers, I thought of very Americanized (or Westernized) traits. It wasn’t prejudice against other nations, but just my own personal experience. To be considered a ‘real’ democracy, a nation had to meet this long list of requirements, many of which are just as intangible as the idea of democracy. But when it came to the democratic index project, I discovered I was much more willing to accept other nations as on their way toward democracy. Even though many of the nations lacked institutional aspects of democracy, one could easily see the attempts to democratize. In this sense, I am optimistic when thinking about democracy. But I am also incredibly pessimistic when considering “is it worth it.” I remember a particularly interesting class debate (about the British restructuring of estates) in which I stated that American democracy was not worth the subjugation of the Native people. In the very last class I fell into the group who preferred a stable and benevolent dictator who would slowly incorporate democratic rights/principles into his regime, over the violence and chaos that could occur during a government upheaval. To summarize, everything I’ve learned has led me to view democracy as flexible. I do not think there is one set of rules or standards that make nations democratic. It’s cliché to say, but nothing is just black or white.
Smith (2001) supports that despite the social science belief which maintains that there exists a correlation between successful democracy and economic stability; democracy can, proba, develop without wealth because Mali, which is among the world’s poorest country, has achieved it since 1992. Located in the midst of a zone of constant conflict, Mali enjoyed a democratic atmosphere due a number of factors: “economic growth, social structures conducive to equality, a unique political culture, a favorable international environment, and effective political leadership” (p.73).
I now understand why Dr. kendhammer pointed out that it is very difficult to write about one’s own country. It has not been as bad but i feel so powerless with regards to the value of my opinion in an academic paper that i realized it is also important to see the value in outside sources even if they sometimes conflict with the reality on the ground. Good intellectual exercise.
The Challenges of Democratization was one of the first academic class in political science I’ve ever had. The course materials and the methods implemented by the professor to simplify the theoretical concepts in democracy, enriched in fact knowledge set on the process of democratization and its different stages. To be equipped with the latest trends in theories of democracy was exactly what I expected to have upon registering for the class.
One of the main and interesting lessons I learnt was the transition model from Authoritarianism to Democracy and the different possible scenarios thereupon inspired by O’Donnell and Shcmitter. This really was appealing to me because in my country Mauritania we had several transition to democracy where we were aspiring the reach the “smiley kid” stage but we ended up with the military taking over the power and the authoritarian regime restores itself. This model helps me to understand where the process went wrong and how to avoid the failure. Hopefully, I will participate one day in adjusting the politics in Mauritania through incorporating insights form the model.
Additionally, the discussion of the compatibility of Islam with democracy and pondering on the color revolutions and Arab Spring revolutions were the most passionate and rewarding elements of the course I had. I liked most how my classmates approached these subjects and different views and points elaborated.
I’m glad I took this class because the readings in addition to the instructor’s input has enhanced my comprehension of how democracy fail or succeed. The case of countries like China, Russia, and Nigeria provided me with great insight into politics. The in-class exercise about how the different types of Authoritarian regimes manage to remain in power is a lesson that stuck with me because there are so many of them in Africa and around the world that one need this type of knowledge to distinguish them.
As far as China is concerned I do believe that there is very little hope for democracy to emerge there in a near future. However, their economic expansion might compel them to relinquish a small portion liberty and sort of equality to their population, from time to time, to calm down the growing voice of unhappiness of vast majority of rural population. In my opinion after the reading, international pressure will not threaten China enough to the point that it will do away with its way of ruling, it will be best to let them experience democracy their own way like in the children video we watched in class then the generation that grows up in that climate might be able to bring about minor changes which will improve their livelihood in general.
This is the outline I have decided on for the paper after cutting off a lot of the theoretical ideas I had and substituting that with more material to support my point about how democracy will be the outcome of the current transition Egypt is going through
- Transition theory
- Democratic consolidation
How that is relevant the Egyptian case after the 2011 revolution?
- Challenges to consolidation for Egypt:
1- The absence of elite
2- Polarization between Islamists and liberals
- Factors of Egyptian transition that entail that the outcome could be consolidated democracy:
1- The mode of regime change
2- The previous democratic experience
3- The critical policy choices by Morsi
How the factors address the challenges?
1- How the regime choices of recruiting a new SCAF council weakens the military authority and strengthening the civilian authority. Hence, deals with the first challenge of the military driven transition and demonstrating a certain type of authority bargain.
2- The increased polarization of public opinion between the Islamists and the liberals, entails the weakening of the MB influence in the street which is demonstrated by the decrease of the percentage of people voting for MB candidates or policy decisions for the three elections Egypt has gone through since 2011
3- The perception of the people about the freedom in the country, about the election procedure, the high turnout in elections and the increased political participation. All these features demonstrate increased people’s power in political life and that if the current government didn’t meet people’s demands it will not win in the second term.
4- The ideology of the MB isn’t mature such that their policies don’t differ than that of the previous government and hence the current performance will be judged upon by their success in managing the economic sector not their political success.
5- Now there is consistency between the freedom in media and freedom (between state run, Islamist and liberal media) and how that freedom contributes to people’s political knowledge and awareness of democracy.
I have to admit that our discussion last class about Egypt made me question my hypothesis that we are on the right path within the Transition theory for that the process that elected the Freedom and Justice Government was the most free and fair election Egypt witnessed since the establishment of the republic. However this doesn’t predetermine that the F&J government will democratize Egypt as expected, given some of the reasons as the lack of security, the repression on freedom of expression, the sectarian aspects of the political repression and the systematic violence against women in the square.
However, these violations are not the acts of the current government alone for that the security related violations are ones that have been systematically practiced during the Mubarak regime and due to the censorship on information channels such violations weren’t heard of. While now it could be argued that the amount and gravity of the violations are the same or slightly more due to the increased media coverage which could lead to biased conclusions. I am not saying that the current regime isn’t violating, there have been numerous reports of protesters attached by Islamist militants but also more reports are about the violation practiced by the security forces or the former party thugs.
Let me explain the choices that were available to the Egyptian people after the revolution in terms of a question you are faced by in an exam that you aren’t sure of the answer so you guess the right answer to be one of the available options. That was the same choice the people faced after the regime collapse is to choose between unfavorable options without having the “Don’t know” answer. If I were to evaluate that, this situation forced people to choose to avoid a systematic problem which is the control of the military over the country after the revolution. But they were conscience that this answer was the least favorable answer which in this case is the Muslim Brotherhood and hence the attitude of the people after the MB candidate assumed power is very critical and is volatile given that the people are scared of going through another period of tranny, oppression and economic deterioration. So as we can’t underestimate the power of the uprising we can’t underestimate the power of a mobilized public to democratize as long as the oppression is not so grave that will force people to retreat from political action.
The reason might not be as tangible as an democratization process initiated by elites willing to bargain but it is one which is consistent with the cause of the transition in the first place. That since the transition was mobilized by people then the people’s role in consolidating the resulting democracy is essential.
I have created an outline for my final paper after realizing that it was poorly organized throughout my many drafts I wrote.
Introduction (1 pg)
Theories of Democratic Transitions (2pgs)
-what is democracy?
-theories of good transitions
Brief History of Spain (1 pg)
– Franco’s Rise to Power
-Cultural Dynamic of Spain
Exposure to Democracy (2 pgs)
-Values of Democracy
Powerful Politicians (2 pgs)
Problems with Spain’s Transition (1 pgs)
-how they overcome these challenges
The week was in fact very decisive for my paper. I work hard to pull things together so that I can see the paper in its overall unity. After reading it however, I realized that there are the order of the different arguments was not consistent. For I started with historical background of the politics in Mauritania without elaborating on the theoretical aspect at the beginning. So I am working now on making a significant adjustments on the whole paper so that it becomes more coherent in terms of order and relevance to the main argument. I stated first by elaborating more on the different explanations advanced by different thinkers on the stagnation of democracy in Mauritania, and then I depicted mine. After that I tried to examine the past stages of the politics in Mauritania in which the influence of the military elite was significant and its implications on the ongoing democratic failure.
This week my main focus has been working on strengthening my theory section. It was a lot easier to tie all of my arguments together after reading Horowitz and developing a better understanding of ethnicity and how it plays into democratization. I am going to frame my theory section around ethnicity and how ethnicity affects electoral institutions and the media. This will make my paper easier to follow and make it better organized. The rest of my week will just be strengthening up my case studies and figuring out how to best conclude my paper. I know I want to discuss each of the most recent elections in each country and relate all of my arguments back to the outcomes of each. I think that I want to have a separate section outside of each case study so that I can better compare and contrast each election.