Political transition and Democratization around the world

IV: Political Transition and Democratization Around the World

The world has experienced a rapid political evolution after the WWII decolonization and independent movement. Although the experiences of many countries are not the same or identical, most of the world societies have been moving toward more open and democratic type of governance that increases the people's opportunity and participation in the central government's decision-making process. Racial oligarchy, colonization, dictatorship, and communism have faced a historical political challenge, which has shaped the world's political landscape. We can also call this specific political transitional period a "Democratic Boom" in the world political development. After the WWII, in many countries, several types of regime; personal dictatorship, one party political system, and military regime dictatorship have replaced the former traditional political culture based on colonial legacy. However, the recent modern intellectual, technological, economic, and social development destabilize the regime governments. As a result many regime governments have changed from the rule of dictatorship to the rule of the people, or a republic type of government known as democracy. Democracy in general terms contains three basic elements: competitive election, reasonable numbers of people's participation, and free and open political institution. Many authoritarian governments still struggle to maintain the status quo against the revolutionary ideological challenge for change toward democracy. However, the potential change of the world social, economic and political systems due to the increasing development of the awareness of public opinion and human rights, and the pressure of the changing modern political economy toward democracy have shaped every political system one way or another.

Samuel Huntington in his writing, "How Countries Democratize", categorizes three types of authoritarian regimes: one party system, personal dictatorship, and military regime. There are different types of one party system: the party controlled and dominated by the military leaders like Burma, or theocracy-dominated by religious leaders or set, and etc. However, it is clear that most of the world's authoritarian governments are helped or backed by military. For example, the three types of the authoritarian government were displayed in the Burma military regime government: one party system headed by military leaders, Burma Socialist Porgram Party (BSPP) (1962-1988), which we can also categorize as the military regime government, and the personal dictator, the leader Ne Win (1962 to 1988). Most of the military regime governments were created by coup d'etat replacing the previous government with military leaders. Many military regimes at first do not claim their legitimate role in government politics but try to legitimize their role by manipulating a fundamental aim of government such as national security, corruption and political chaos. Latin America, Greece, Turkey, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Pakistan, Nigeria, Argentina, Panama, Burma, and South Korea experienced military regime government.

One party system authoritarian government always institutionalizes its political party, though oppressive to the opposition. Manipulating national cause, it legitimizes its political role through the political ideology of the party, which defines the identity of the state and is differentiated from the ideology of democracy and personal dictatorship. It is almost impossible for the opposition to rise up within such a closed society, because any opposition to the party amounted to treason to the state. The elections were often conducted under the complete control of the dominant party. Taiwan, Hungary, Mexico, USSR, Bulgaria, Poland, Nicaragua, Mongolia, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Granada experienced one party system. The collapse of communist countries, the ongoing decrease of the regime's capacity to control the political phenomena and the challenge of the democracrtization movement helped the change of political power from monopoly to multiparty system. Although one party system authoritarian leaders used to give up their monopoly power they always tried to hold the opportunity to compete in newly introduced democratic multiparty system.

Personal dictatorships were diverse in forms of government. However, most of the personal dictatorship governments have shared a distinguished characteristic, that being one political leader as the source of authority and the flow of that authority based on closeness to, access to, dependence on, and support of the leader. For example, Portugal was ruled by Antonio Salazar and Marcello, Spain by Fransco Franco, Philippians by Ferdinand Marcos, India by Indira Ganhdi, and Romania by Nicole Ceacescu. With the exception of India and Chile, personal dictators hardly give up power voluntarily. They often try to hold the central political power as long as they can. The overthrow of dictator took place in Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, Iran, Portugal, Philippines, and Romania.

As a fruit of 18th century enlightenment that focused on human reason as the basis for determining human value system, the intellectual revolution has shaped the modern philosophy of society. Peace and development become political goal. The world's experiences of wars pushed the society in search of peace. The world's economy has been moving toward a competitive and opened market system. Besides the human behavioral social evils, the political system is no exception for the cause of war and destruction. Many of the world's political thinkers believe that "democracy as fundamental to development and peace, as it provides opportunities to resolve ethnic, social, and political conflicts peacefully through dialogue and negotiations between the parties." The infusion of democratic norms, and principles of human rights that support them into many international and regional institutions, business corporations and their attachment to democratic norms, technological development and political openness, all helped the progress of democratization and regime change through globalization and international and regional social, economic and political interaction.

Some regime governments have been undergoing the progress of democratization, and many have reached the most suitable political system, democracy. In spite of resistance to change, there have been several factors that have overcome and instituted a democratic system. Regime change has taken place with different experiences of the regimes. Internal collapse, overthrow of the regime government by the opposition, internal reformers' transformation or voluntary submission to democracy, and external intervention are examples of how change has occured. Although the levels of the democratization differ in each newly constructed democratic society, at least to some extent, each bears the basic democratic principles of general competitive election, open political institution and freedom of expression.

Among military regime changes, except Argentina, Greece, and Panama-where the military collapsed or was defeated, all involved transplacement and transformation. The collapse of the regime is not necessary for all political transitions. However, within the recent historical context, the collapse of military regimes and communism, foreign imposition and decolonization, domestic opposition and democratization are all political conditions that made up for the demand of political transition from regime government to civilian rule. Except for the countries where military collapse occurred, there used to be covert or overt negotiation for the process of regime change from military to civilian rule. Leadership change within the military regime body, the pressure for political transition, and the transfer of power sometimes helped the process. If the transition is not voluntary, the military always demanded exit guarantees providing protection of army personals and the role of the military in the future government.

According to Samuel Huntington, generally, there have been three types of political transitions from regime governments to civilian rule: transformation, replacement, and transplacement. Most of the political transitions have three crucial interactions: the government and the opposition, reformers and standpatters in the governing coalition, and moderate and extremists in the oppositions.

By the end of 1980s there were 16 transformations. In a transformation, the authoritarian regime leaders voluntarily monitor or control the transition. Especially in a military regime, the army leaders used to leave politics and go back to their barracks. By nature, the government is always stronger and in control of the total political phenomena. Spain, Brazil, Taiwan, Mexico, and Hungary are good examples. The process of transformation used to begin with the reformers inside the government. With an ideological conviction, the emergence of reformers is very important. There are prerequisites for the emergence of reformers. The ideological conviction in democracy as the only best system that would lead the country toward development competing the growing world; the reformers' believe in their political or professional future assurance; the believe in political transition which will reduce the risk of holding power; and the pressure for political transition are essential to advance the transformation process.

There were six Replacement transitions by 1990: Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Greece, Argentina, and East German. In replacement transitions, first the breakdown of the regime took place, sometimes due to the collapse of the military such as in Greece, Argentina, and Romania and some other regimes overthrown by the opposition. The breakdown or collapse of the regime used to take place when the internal political discontentment occurred, and when the regime lacked the support of social base in the society. The opposition is always stronger than the government in replacement transition. The possibility of initiating reform is almost always absent within the government because the regime government always tries to maintain the central political power at all cost. Therefore, the overthrowing of the government by the opposition is necessary and the only option for the political transition. Replacement is more common in transitions from personal dictators. After wearing down the regime government, the opposition used to sift power to its favor in a replacement transition,

In a transplacement model transition, both the government and opposition party work together for the transition process. The government learns that the opposition can hinder or threaten the political status quo of the government, while the opposition cannot overthrow the government either. In such a political standoff, negotiation and cooperation are necessary between the two parties. The political transitions in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Uruguay, Korea, Bolivia, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and South Africa involved the transplacement model. With or without the external interference, the opposition increases its strength that the government is required to liberate its stand to negotiate with the opposition. Therefore, a negotiating table used to take place. The government liberalizes its stand to negotiate with the opposition while the opposition also trusts the government as worthy partners. Though the process of transition, trust is built between the two that after transition is over the government leaders and higher officials or the opposition leaders would not have to be in prison or in exile. Rather, both parties are guaranteed to share power or to compete in the new system or if in the case of military regime, the military leaders are guaranteed to have respect and dignity in their professional barracks.

In transformation and transplacement model of political transitions both parties' leaders are guaranteed for their future political or professional role without danger of the new system. On the other hand, the authoritarian leaders who faced replacements suffered unhappy fates. For example, Marcos and Caetano were exiled, Ceausescu was executed, Greece and Argentina military leaders were tried and imprisoned, and Panama and Grenada leaders were subject to persecution. By contrast, in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia there was no such punishment.

Compared to the prerequisite political conditions for political transitions around the world, the present Burma political conditions would fit into the situation where, according to Huntington, transformation and transplacement political transition used to take place. By balancing the political forces between the Burma regime and the opposition, Huntington's explanation gives a clue to possible transition in Burma. In order to give us a clear view on the balance of power, in the next chapters, factors that contribute to the opposition's political strength will be discussed.