Democratic breakdown is also referred to democratization or democratic erosion. It is the gradual
decline in the quality of democracy. The process of weakening democracies comes as a result of
the weakening of the institutions that are essential for the functioning of the democratic system.
There are different ways in which the democracy can be threatened meaning that the concept of
democratic backsliding can take various forms. According to the political scientists such
as Nancy Bermeo named the forms of democratic backsliding such as electoral where there are
malpractices in the election process leading to the election of the people that the people in the
society did not like them. The other way in which democratization occurs is through classic,
open-ended coups d'état. Military rule refers to the situation where the armed forces take up the
leadership of the country. The military rule often occurs after a classic, open-ended coups
d'état that leads to the degradation of the democracy in the particular country.
Manifestation of democratic breakdown and military rule
Democracy degradation occurs as a result of weakening of the key institutions in the country.
One of the manifestation of democratic backsliding includes the compromise of the electoral
system in such a way that the people elected are not the ones the people wanted. The election
process is therefore not free and fair as it is supposed to be. The other manifestation is the fact
that the fundamental rights of the people are violated. For instance, the freedom of speech is
denied hence in the case where an individual or a group of people want to speak in the country,
they are arrested and intimidated. The citizens are therefore not allowed to challenge the
government in anyway even when they do not agree with their decisions. The rule of law in a
country that has a declined democracy is weakened in such a way that the judiciary is
compromised and many rights are violated in the process without the government taking any
action against the perpetrators. The other manifestation is the case where the government
overemphasizes or manufactures a crisis so that they can get a reason to get to their critics. The
common ways in which democratic backsliding may occur include promissory coups, executive
aggrandizement and strategic harassment and manipulation and democratic process. In the
military rule, all the activities in a given county are done by the military as opposed to having the
other leaders take care of some services in the country.
Causes of democratic backsliding
One way in which democratic backsliding occurs is through populism. The liberal democracies
are affected by the so called twin forces. The random and sporadic terror attacks that occur in
various counties lead to the support of the populist authoritarian forces that take advantage of the
fear to gain political mileage. The fears that are brought about by the cases of terrorism make the
people to choose the populist authorities who mess up with the democracy of the state once they
are given a chance to rule the country. According to the political scientists Yascha Mounk and
Jordan Kyle approximately 13 populist governments have ascended to power. Out of the
governments, five have led to a decline in democracy in the states where they rule. According to
the political scientists, the populist governments are likely to mess up with the democracy of a
given state compared to the non-populist governments. Most of the populist leaders have
reportedly amended or made changes to the constitution of the country to suit their needs and
sometimes the wishes of the leaders are not beneficial to the people in the country. Populist rule,
whether left- or right-wing has the risk of degrading the democracy of the country hence it is
important to avoid it as much as possible. The populist government causes harm to the states in
that they erode the checks and balances that ensure that there is freedom of the media, freedom
of speech among the people, political rights and civil liberties.
Economic crisis also causes democratic degradation in a given country. In the case where the
citizens are poor, they are likely to be bribed into choosing a leader who is not befitting for the
position. Hungary is one of the country that has people with lower education levels, a large
number of the unemployed people. The people got tired of the economic down turn especially
after the financial crisis that took place in 2007-2008. The president of the country reportedly
took advantage of the situation to clinch the leadership of the state. The economic crisis makes
people not to be able to fight for their rights. There are cases where the incumbent president
takes over the institutions leading to a decline in the democracy of the country.
Democracy is important because it supports good and sound governance. It also protects the
basic rights of the citizens. It also makes sure that the transitions in a given country are smooth
and beneficial to the people in the country. The countries with military rule do not always enjoy
democracy. The military government is therefore associated with democracy decline. There are
many authorities in the world today that are able to save the people from decline in democracy.
The formation of the international community has played an important role in ensuring that
democracy is upheld in the states and that the rule of law is respected.
Hellinger, D. C. (2014). Comparative politics of Latin America: Democracy at last?. Routledge.