Browsing articles in "Democracy"
Jan 26, 2015
Javier Pena

Call for Papers for Spring-Summer 2015

Call for Papers

Democracy & Society Vol. 12, Issue 2 (Spring-Summer 2015)

The Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University is seeking well-written, interesting submissions of 1,500 – 2,000 words for their Spring-Summer 2015 publication, Democracy & Society. The submissions can be new publications, summaries, excerpts of recently completed research book reviews, and works in progress. Submissions for this issue will be due by April 1, 2015. Please email all submissions along with a brief author’s bio to

Democracy, International Actors, and Foreign Aid:

Since the third wave of democratization, Western donors have been following a strategy of democracy promotion to non-democratic countries that involve giving assistance to both governmental and non-governmental actors including parliaments, judicial institutions, political parties, civil society, electoral management bodies, and election observation missions. With recent backlashes in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe in mind, what do we know about the relationship between foreign aid and democracy?

We are seeking articles that address the following issues and questions:

The Historical Development of Aid Politics and Aid Governance: What are the origins of Western aid programs and how have they changed to remain effective and relevant in changing international contexts? How has the current aid paradigm differed from those in the past? What forecasts can we make for future adjustments to aid policy? In reaction to changes in the international political context, how have democratization efforts modified their efforts in order to maintain relevance in the short-term? Have these fixes produced favorable results for countries? Have past development paradigms produced problems for policy implementation in the present?

The Efficacy of Foreign Aid: How has foreign aid affected democratization efforts in non-democracies? What are the political implications of such efforts and how have they affected international relations between states? What results has foreign aid had on establishing and fortifying democratic institutions and governmental efficacy? What are some of the positive and negative impacts of funding political parties and civil society organizations abroad? What cases can we study that demonstrate successes and failures of democracy promotion? Which agencies/organizations have been innovating democracy promotion to draw more favorable results?

Changes and Challenges for Democracy Promotion: Not only has democracy become widely accepted as a universal norm, but also the international community is now more readily inclined to accept the legitimacy of intervention in the event of gross violations of human rights even when this transgresses state sovereignty. Likewise, recent years have seen the emergence of new actors in the democracy promotion field. It now extends well beyond the U.S. For example, the European Union has emerged as a key player, spurred by the need to consolidate democracy in its post-communist eastern periphery, especially as these states became candidates for EU accession. What is the role of the new actors? Will organizational diversity complicate democratization?  What restrictions are placed on funds directed at democratic, political, and social organizations? Have these restrictions yielded positive or negative results in securing a more democratic environment for developing governments? Should there be restrictions placed on certain practices that do not currently exist? Who or what should dictate these restrictions?

Prospects For A More Inclusive Paradigm: Should democracy promotion be more inclusive? How can democracy promotion incorporate the perspectives of the local populations it affects? Given that governmental efforts typically work through institutional channels, does this limit the influence civilians and non-elites can have within their political systems?

Variations on these themes will be accepted. Research on democracy assistance programs is encouraged. Questions and comments are welcome.

Please visit, for more information about Democracy & Society and for more information about the M.A. in Democracy and Governance and the Center for Democracy and Civil Society.

Please click here for the D&S Style Guide.




Nov 23, 2014
Erika Hernandez

A Once-Upon-A-Time, Now A Reality? Uruguay

Uruguay's President Jose Mujica arrives at a polling station in his Volkswagen beetle, to cast his vote in the general elections, in Montevideo, Uruguay. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica arrives at a polling station in his Volkswagen beetle, to cast his vote in the general elections, in Montevideo, Uruguay. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Once upon a time, a geographically forgotten, often belittled by its neighbors, a country called “Uruguay” became one of the most progressive countries in the world, raising the envy of many. It has a small population, 3.3 million people and is today one of the most effective democracies in the world. It holds economic stability, broadly respects human rights and has a seemingly functional political system, where consensus is possible between political parties. In short, Uruguay is a thriving democracy unlike other countries in Latin America, who are still facing innovative forms of authoritarianism like Venezuela. Citizens like me simply ponder whether political consensus across parties only belongs to fairy tales. In an ideal world, or Uruguay so to speak, politicians come to agreements after grueling negotiations lasting over 10 hours. Perhaps not all of the legislators attend to the sessions, but most of them do. Tough law initiatives like allowing abortion and gay marriage actually get discussed and stamped by most parties in, both, the lower and higher chambers of representatives. During the last 10 years, Uruguay’s income distribution policies have had a positive effect managing to reduce poverty from a 39% to an incredible 11%. Moreover, it has an exemplary President, Jose Alberto Mujica, who is really driven by public service rather than by power or money, like most politicians. He is often referred to as the “World’s Poorest President.” But why can Uruguay relish such an outstanding democratic system? Is it because it requires less effort to govern a small population? Or is it because, through having observed the income disparities of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, it has learned that a set of political reforms can ensure a healthy economic progress? Or is it just that we need to make a wish and tap together our heals, like Dorothy, and expect it to come true?

Uruguay does have a President worth of endorsement. As a former guerilla fighter, he spent 14 years imprisoned, and was finally released in 1985. In 2009, he won a landslide vote for the Presidential seat with a 53.33%. He currently donates 90% of his salary to a charity organization that builds public housing and his motto is “To do politics we must live like the poor,” which he has put to action by living very modestly. Under his tenure, he has pushed highly controversial law initiatives that would hardly pass in other countries. The first one was legalizing abortion for women within the first trimester of pregnancy. The initiative seldom passed in the lower chamber with 50 votes in favor against 49. Another initiative consisted in legalizing gay marriage in 2012, which had a strong support by the Frente Amplio (a coalition of left-wing parties, under which President Mujica got elected). Since the Senate believed that the text needed further editions, the text was sent back to the lower house. The initiative underwent a total of 4 in-house voting rounds. And just last year, the country passed a law regulating the production and consumption of marihuana, for non-medical purposes. The law obtained 16 votes favoring it versus 13 against it. One way to justify these positive outcomes is alluding them to the fact that “Frente Amplio” held the majority in both chambers and that the President remained loyal to its ideals. In 2009, Frente won 50 of the 99 representative seats and 15 of 30 of the senatorial ones. What this means is that, in order to pass controversial laws like these, we can ascertain that there must be an agreement between the President and the Legislative branch.

Oftentimes, we citizens feel rather unlucky with the type of governments we have. Democrats fight Republicans in both US chambers; Democrats then having differences with the President Obama; Mexicans feeling cheated by having elected a President with presumable links with the organized crime; etc. But I believe that Uruguay’s status quo is not a question of luck. It is merely the natural result of programmatic parties that have become more professional, and that, at least, there is some level of institutional learning from the previous dictatorship. Such learning and reconciliation is palpable when one sees a former guerrilla member becoming a President. Indeed, holding majority seats in both houses might appear as an autocratic. But such assessment does not hold when other political parties are allowed to participate and when elections are free and fair.  Tensions arise in democracies when a broad consensus is required to implement policies tackling income inequality and addressing drug-related issues. It is then when parties are unable to arrive towards agreements with “rivals”. Regardless of rivalries and wanting to look better than the other party, one of the most efficient ways to ensure votes is delivering promises. Clearly, this is the case for Uruguay. President Mujica is now preparing to step down as his term is just about to end this month. He is unable to run for re-election, per the Constitution. As the second Presidential round approaches (November 30), the votes will reflect whether Uruguayans would like to continue vouching for Frente Nacional, as the first round demonstrates this. Its presidential candidate is Tabare Vazquez, who was president from 2005-2010. Meanwhile, Mujica declined the US$1 million offer to buy his old, rundown 1987 beetle and also plans to join Uruguay’s upper house in the coming elections. Hopefully, he continues to live happily ever after in his chrysanthemum farm.

Sep 16, 2014
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Call for Papers

Democracy & Society Vol. 12, Issue 1 (Fall-Winter 2014)

The Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University is seeking well-written, interesting submissions of 1,500 – 2,000 words for their Fall-Winter 2014 publication, Democracy & Society. The submissions can be new publications, summaries, excerpts of recently completed research book reviews, and works in progress. Submissions for this issue will be due by November 10, 2014. Please email all submissions along with a brief author’s bio to

Democracy, Conflict and Peace-Building:

Across the globe policymakers are faced with the daunting task of forging democratic institutions after severe conflict. Likewise, we have seen supposedly stable democracies falter into civil war. International peacemaking institutions face unforeseen challenges, and at times making peace and restoring democracy seems out of reach. With recent conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe in mind, what do we know about the relationships between democracy, conflict and peace building?

We are seeking articles that address the following issues and questions:

Forging Democracy after Conflict: If democracy is to be used as a conflict resolution measure, what practices have worked best and which have failed? How do you forge democratic institutions after severe conflict? What tools must we use to address these conflicts and promote stability and peace in volatile, post-conflict states?

Transitional Justice: What new insights are there into this longstanding question – how do you balance the need for accountability after conflict with the need to reach consensus in order to build new political institutions?

The Relationship between Democracy and Conflict: Does democracy foster stability, or rather, in certain contexts, does it lay the seeds for future conflict? Do democratic institutions actually solve conflict or simply reinforce and freeze existing tensions and divisions?

The Causes of Conflict: Are there new insights into the causes of civil conflict, and what new information do we have about the role of resources, state capacity, and sectarian division?

Variations on these themes will be accepted. Research on post-conflict societies, democratic proliferation, and analysis of war and peace are encouraged. Questions and comments are welcome.

Please visit, for more information about Democracy & Society and for more information about the M.A. in Democracy and Governance and the Center for Democracy and Civil Society.

Apr 28, 2014

40 Years, 11 Years, and 7 Years

Portuguese Military during the 1974 Carnation Revolution (from

Portuguese Military during the 1974 Carnation Revolution (from

Four decades ago, on April 25, 1974, a military coup overthrew the Portuguese military regime, inaugurating the set of transitions from authoritarianisms known as the third wave of democratization. In 2003, the Department of Government in Georgetown University opened the Center for the Third Sector, later renamed the Center for Democracy and Civil Society (CDACS). Its objective was to carry out original research and advocate for domestic and international policies to better understand and promote democratization processes. In 2007, the CDACS program of Master of Arts in Democracy and Governance received its first class, forming political scientists and policy makers specialized in democratic change. To celebrate these anniversaries, CDACS organized on April 24 the panel discussion “The State of Democracy and Democracy Studies”, with the participation of Thomas Carothers, Steven Heydemann, and Sharon Wolchik.

Thomas Carothers noticed the presence of “disappointments” with democracy in several regions of the world. In many countries, as in the post-Soviet area, or Africa, democracy has not taken root. But, as noticed earlier by himself and other authors, something else, not between, but different to democracy and authoritarianism, has emerged. And in other places, as the U.S. or Europe, democracy is facing performance crises and major social protests, as citizens perceive political parties are nor responsive to their demands or interests. Yet, Carothers observed, these problems have confirmed the central importance for democratization of an agreement on national identity and of a civil society with a democratic culture. For some time, these concepts were thought of as being given in all countries or as fads in the literature. But empirical evidence has shown otherwise.

Steven Haydemann questioned the extent to which uprisings with the intent to democratize have challenged authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. The answer relates to the institutionalization of authoritarianism in the countries of these regions. There, generals in positions of power tend to operate elections as military campaigns, pushing towards the outcome that will be the most beneficial or less damaging to them. Furthermore, authoritarian regimes have adapted (or “upgraded”, following Haydemann’s terms) their exclusionary techniques. Now, they have to try to control civil society, manage contestation, or capture economic resources, as opposed to using blatant and open coercion. In the end, social protesting in the region have brought about changes; not for democracy, as demanded, but to strengthen authoritarian tools.

Sharon Wolchik discussed problems for democratic consolidation in post-Communist Europe. She commented that it was thought that constitutional reform would be more difficult to undertake than political culture reform. While this was true, constitutional reform was still very complicated. There is a noticeable party volatility in many countries in the region. Some parties, even those which have been in office, sometimes disappear after being voted out, and new incumbents make radical changes to the constitution, diminishing its democratic features. Without a transformation in political culture both in society and in elites, democracy will not only be at problems to take root, but can also be reverted, as in Hungary. Additionally, Wolchik commented that the international community should not forget how important it was to foster change immediately after the fall of Communism. By giving money, organizational help, or sharing experiences it was essential to give a democratic breath to the changes in the early nineties. There is no reason to believe that its help is less necessary now.

These presentations seem to have ended in a rather gloomy tone on democracy. It appears that this system of governance is failing in one of its essential components: linking governors with governed. Are politicians behaving in ways unacceptable for democratic norms, or are theories and their derived institutions challenged by reality? What is needed: new mechanisms to facilitate interactions between authorities and citizens, or the enhancement of the existing tools? What are the chances for democracy in countries suffering from major social unrest? Forty years after the beginning of the third wave of democratization, Georgetown University’s CDACS and its MA program in Democracy and Governance will continue to address these questions in an attempt to improve the world state of democracy.

Apr 13, 2014

Elections in Hungary: Fidesz Round Two

Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary and leader of the Fidesz

Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary and leader of the Fidesz (from The Guardian).

Hungary held general elections on Sunday 6. As expected, the ruling party, Fidesz (Hungarian Civil Alliance), jointly with the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP), won 44 percent of the vote, which translated into 133 seats in the 199-member parliament thanks to the rewarding electoral laws. This represents a reduction in the vote share for this party in the 2010 election, when it got 53 percent. Still, Fidesz maintains the control of 67 percent of the parliament (versus 68 percent of the outgoing legislature). With this position, Fidesz and its leader, Viktor Orbán, will continue unmatched their series of reforms that many domestic and international observers have classified as increasingly authoritarian.

Fidesz first came to power in 2010. The vote for this extreme-right party was a punishment to the Socialist Party (MSZP). In 2006, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány gave a supposedly confidential speech, which was recorded and made public by the media, in which the recognized he had lied about the state of the government, that he had nothing to be proud of during his tenure, and that the economy was in a really bad shape. Fidesz, the second party in parliament at the time, made the best of this leaking and managed to win its second government (the first one being from 1998 to 2002) in the 2010 general election.

Back in office, Fidesz promised to bring the strength back to Hungary. Orbán renationalized industries, supported by an aggressive discourse saying that foreign capital was stealing the wealth of the country away from Hungarians, succeeded in reducing unemployment, increased wages, and cut energy bills. However, Hungary is still greatly reliant on loans from the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Although Hungary has not seen the severe austerity measures in countries as Spain or Greece, which have also received help from these organisms, the government has had to implement some reforms to ensure the fiscal viability of its social security system, including eliminating early retirements and forcing welfare recipients to get back to work.

The apparent success of Fidesz in the economic arena, mostly in comparison to the antecedent Socialist government and the turmoil in other assisted European countries, has prompted citizens to vote again for it. Yet, Fidesz has also managed political institutions to secure its position. Since his 2010 inauguration, the Orbán government made more than fifty changes to the constitution, finally adopting a new one in 2012. Most of these changes are aimed at reducing counterweights to the government. For instance, the power of the courts, especially in reviewing legislation and questioning the constitutionality of the administration’s actions, has been curtailed. Also, the party has put at the heads of expectedly autonomous agencies (such as the state audit office, the public prosecutor’s office, or the budget council, which can veto the budget) party members or figures close to Orbán. Further, a new media law prompts broadcasters to limit government criticism under fears of sanctions from the politicized regulating agencies. Under this scenario, official electoral publicity and pro-Fidesz coverage flooded this campaign, leaving little space for the opposition. In spite of this, there were no acknowledged vote fraud or coercion. With the ruling party working to entrench itself in state institutions and leaving little margin of action for its opponents, some foreign observers have called this Saturday’s election “unfair but free”.

This label and many of the political developments in Hungary are fit the description of the so-called hybrid regimes or electoral authoritarianisms. While democratic practices, such as elections, continue to happen, the government is imposing a series of controls to limit the plurality that is expected to exist for multiparty contests to take place. By attacking the autonomy of agencies and changing the laws to its favor, the Orbán government is limiting the possibilities for contestation. There is no way to know if this is a first step in becoming more exclusionary. For some, the fact that the power of churches to carry out social work has been diminished, or that Roma are being left out of some of the government’s policies, indicate attempts to secure the party’s and ethnic Hungarian’s position at the expense of other social actors.

Yet, this leads to other question. Are these changes to be explained only by the authoritarian desires of the incumbents? Orbán has repeatedly used the electoral fallacy that as people freely voted for him, it must be understood that everything he does is what Hungarians want. Thanks to his economic performance, Orbán could be authentically popular, to some extent. Even more, his project is accepted by Hungarians as opposed to what? Socialists, as commented above, are punished by voters. Yet they are the second force in parliament, with 38 seats, almost a hundred less than Fidesz. The third party is another extremist, Jobbik, the Union for a Better Hungary. It proposes privatization, rejects the EU, and constantly attacks Jews, Roma, socialists and homosexuals. In this election it got 23 seats, increasing by 5 percent its vote share. Thus, the opposition represents no clear, or acceptable, alternative to Fidesz for Hungarian voters. Theorists of democracy tend to emphasize the coercive capacities and coercive state building of incumbents in trying to explain the rise of authoritarianism. But as the Hungarian case points out, for voters the choice might not necessarily be between democracy and no democracy, but between bad or worse. And, as has been the case in other countries, parties failing to appeal electors coinciding with other parties able to capitalize such discontent is a formula that easily steps away from democracy.

Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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