30 July 2012


Democracy Crises: Mali, Romania… Who’s Next?

It was expected that the ongoing international economic crisis would push a number of dictatorial regimes out, especially in underdeveloped countries. Whether the series of revolts and regime changes in the ‘Arab Spring’ can be closely associated to new economic troubles is to be explored. The rationale for the likely fall of dictatorships in bad economic times refers to their institutional incapacity to deal with unexpected, adverse developments. But with the same logic it can also be expected that the worst-designed democratic regimes can have trouble in dealing with appalling economic performances and their bad management can put them in jeopardy.
I’ve discussed the fit of institutional design in the 82 currently durable democracies regarding the size and complexity of the country, the territorial structure and degree of decentralization of government, and the electoral system (in a paper presented at the Public Choice Society meeting last year, leading now to publication, ‘Equilibrium Institutions: The Federal-Proportional Trade-Off’: CLICK).
Within the set of the durable democracies, I identified Ghana, Greece, Japan, S. Korea, Mali and Romania among most likely candidates either for major institutional reform or further democratic deterioration.
Recent developments in Mali have indeed shown the fragility of what was considered one of the most successful democracies in Africa during the last twenty years: just a few weeks ago an anti-democratic military putsch was enforced while a northern region has declared secession. Greece, which holds the world record for the continuous manipulation of the electoral system, has seen its party system dismantled and is experiencing dreadful problems of governance. Now in Romania, an attempt to impeach the president by referendum has followed the opposition accusation of violating the constitution by meddling in government business, coddling cronies and using the secret services against enemies, as well as the European Commission’s “serious concerns about recent political events in Romania in relation to the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the role of the Constitutional Court”. Who is going to be next?

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