Does a transition away from an authoritarian regime always end in a democratic system?

The transition from an authoritarian regime to democratic system is a demanding task. I believe that the transition away from an authoritarian regime does not always end to a democratic system. Huntington explains there are many variables to consider when discussing why a country transitions from one regime to another. All of these variables push and pull each other to explain the democratization in a country.

It’s impossible to peg one reason for the change. When looking at transitions, Huntington pointed out several patterns, one called “the second-try pattern”. This pattern goes through steps. First an authoritarian system shifts to a democratic system. Next, Huntington explains, “the democratic system fails because the country lacks the social bases for democracy, or the leaders of the new democratic system pursue extremist polices that produce a drastic reaction”(42). After the failure of the democratic system, there is a return to an authoritarian government, for period of time. Over time however, with a second effort to change into democracy they find more success, learning from their previous mistakes.

I couldn’t help but think that this is a similar pattern that Egypt is facing today. Consequently I looked at a New York Times article in dated November of 2014 called Rubber-Stamp Assembly Expected From Egypt Vote, anticipating the parliamentary elections. Egypt was under authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak, who resigned due to a lack of support from the military, amounts other various reasons. After Mubarak’s resignation, the Egyptians then held an election where they elected Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. After a single year of presidency Morsi was ousted by Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who is currently the president of Egypt. Thus the possibly first failed attempt to transition democracy seen with the second-try pattern discussed by Huntington.

However, Egypt’s transition is still developing, but at this point a second try at democracy, to follow this pattern discussed by Huntington, seems far fetched. We are at a point where Egypt has tried and failed once, but a second-try at democracy seems far off. Perhaps, with the case of Egypt they have tried and failed, and now returned to an authoritarian regime with no thought transitioning back to democracy.

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One thought on “Does a transition away from an authoritarian regime always end in a democratic system?

  1. I find Huntington’s idea of a second try at democracy to be really interesting, and certainly makes good points regarding the fact that previous authoritarian regimes will fail at bringing in a democratic government and go back to their old ways at first, but I’m not sure if I find it to be all encompassing regarding democratization. His idea that democratization is the dependent variable and a regime change is the independent variable, is really what I found to be most enlightening about the two chapters. Although I can see why a history of (failed) democracy would help lead to a more stabilized democracy later on, it seems to be almost redundant; of course those with a history of tried democracy would be able to bring it back successfully, because they already know what has failed previously. While there certainly has to be a regime change in order to bring on democratization I felt as though Huntington could have explored how and what sort of changes were more likely to bring about that democratization. Certainly there are authoritarian countries who had regime changes and the citizens wanted democratization, but it still did not and has not happened yet. Is there another factor that plays a larger role; perhaps geographical location, or intervention from democratized Western countries?

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