How do democracies deal with the deep divisions created by race, ethnicity, religion, and language? The cases of Canada, India, and the United States show that democratic institutions—notably, competitive elections and independent judiciaries—can bridge divides and build stability, but they must find a way to manage the tension between individual and group equality.
Volume 21, Issue 2
Indonesia is widely lauded as a democratic success story for rolling back the military, keeping radical Islam in check, and institutionalizing democratic freedoms. But this success has had costs in terms of democratic quality.
The 2009 electoral victories of Indonesia’s incumbent president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and his party reveal a growing sophistication among the electorate and a robust presidency, but also a dangerously weak, highly personalistic party system.
Those who warn against efforts to promote free elections in Muslim-majority countries often point to the threat posed by Islamic parties that stand ready to use democracy against itself. But what does the record really show regarding the ability of Islamic parties to win over Muslim voters?
What makes elected leaders step down at the appointed hour, and what do they have to look forward to once their terms end? A look at the political afterlives of world leaders tells us that the future prospects of presidents and premiers may well affect their behavior while in office.
In emerging democracies and postconflict countries, improved policing is almost always urgently required. Yet international-assistance efforts in this area pay almost no attention to the crucial need to ensure that the new-model police are not only effective, but democracy-friendly.
Trouble in Central America
A Central American military once again returned to the political center stage in 2009, but this had less to do with power-hungry generals than with warring civilian elites whose respect for liberal-democratic principles proved to be questionable at best.
Strange and unsettling turns of events further roiled the already-troubled waters of Guatemalan political life in 2009, driving the crime-ridden country’s shaky democracy to the brink.
Amid a climate of rising crime and insecurity as well as economic uncertainty produced by the global downturn, can the study of public opinion and attitudes reveal which Central American countries are most at risk of democratic reversals?
Although the overall state of freedom in the world has clearly improved over the last two decades, more recent trends are worrisome. In 2009, declines in freedom outnumbered gains for the fourth consecutive year.
Once touted as a regional success story, Mozambique has been backsliding toward one-party-dominant rule, and has now slipped off the Freedom House list of electoral democracies. How and why did this happen?
A review of The Handbook of National Legislatures: A Global Survey by M. Steven Fish and Matthew Kroenig, and Legislative Power in Emerging African Democracies edited by Joel D. Barkan.
Reports on elections in Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominica, Honduras, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.
Excerpts from: a statement by Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on charches of “inciting subversion of state power”; the inaugural address of Honduran president Porfirio Lobo; a statement issued by the Sri Lankan Lawyers for Democracy; the inaugural address of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.