Stages of Democratic Transition…

The way O’Donnell and Schmitter perceive the transition between authoritarianism and democracy is that in between the two stages there is an opening in which regimes of many countries can be situated. The idea implied is that countries that are neither democratic nor authoritarian are classified in different levels according to how much the regime is close to getting in a democracy. Within this “opening” between authoritarianism and democracy lies a wide range of different regimes that extend from semi-authoritarianism to semi-democracy.

A remarkable point in O’Donnell’s and Schmitter’s book is the study of the evolution of the transition to democracy. They present the transition process as starting from the regime of a “hard-liner” – harsh and power-addicted dictator – to either a democracy or a return to the initial stage of dictatorship or strong authoritarianism (i.e before the transition start). In O’Donnell’s and Schmitter’s argument, the transition operates in three main stages. The first step is when the hard-liner faces the popular revolution that claims for more rights; and the usual outcome of this is either a harsh (sometimes deadly) repression or the emergence of a “soft-liner” who accepts to negotiate and to grants more rights to the population. The second stage presents two following possibilities: either the dictator, who hold tightly on power, descend his army again the population or the negotiations end up in the organization of elections. The third stage is as decisive as the two previous ones. It is the outcome of the dictator’s “stubbornness” or that of the newly held elections. In most sad cases, the dictator usually succeeds to maintain his/her power by imposing military force. In the case elections prevail, there are to outcomes. The first being the birth of democracy, if actually all implied parties follow the pre-negotiated rules of the game (agreement). Another possibility in this third stage of transition is a return of violence when one of the parties betrays the previous agreements. In the case, the soft-liner may resort to force to assiege his/her authority, which returns the regime to authoritarianism; and this require the re-start of the whole process for the democratic transition to democracy to begin again.

This explanation of the democratic transition is very detailed and it is observable in even current political situations (stage one in Syria, stage two in Yemen, Post-transition in Cote d’Ivoire). But I wonder how would we classify situation in Senegal. Is Wade a hard-liner?

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About Kamary

M.A candidate in the African studies program. Wolof language instructor. I am interested in African politics. I also have a great interest in African and African American history and literature.

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