The Department of Government
The Department of Government

The Road to Democracy

Mon, July 27, 2009

Classifying government regimes is no easy task. Scholars have not been able to say that these regimes are democratic, those regimes are authoritarian, and be done with it; differences among regimes are too many and too subtle. Instead, there exists a long continuum of regime types, many of which are characterized by a mixture of authoritarian and democratic attributes. Regimes that allow substantial electoral competition for governing power, but do not gain power and maintain legitimacy through wholly free and open democratic procedures are known as competitive authoritarian regimes. Examples include Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan, and Malaysia. Jason Brownlee’s new study, published in the July issue of the American Journal of Political Science, demonstrates that these competitive authoritarian regimes are more likely than others, after their collapse, to be followed by democracy. Brownlee shows that, while no regime type is more likely than another to break down, if a regime does collapse, competitive authoritarian regimes are unique in their likelihood to be succeeded by democratic rulers. The result is based on tests of 158 regimes over 30 years.

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