Searching for Sources of Democratic Consolidation

50 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2010

Date Written: August 6, 2010


Most attempts at democratic government around the world have ended with a coup or rebellion that has returned the country to autocratic rule. These breakdowns of democracy have often happened within a decade of the elections that marked the start of democratic government, and poorer countries are especially susceptible to them. Yet, in spite of those broad patterns, some attempts at democracy in poorer countries have succeeded, and some of those successes have occurred in countries identified by current theories of democratization as unlikely candidates. Why do some democratic regimes survive in apparently inauspicious conditions while others do not? This report documents the design and results of a statistical analysis aimed at answering that question. Consistent with some prior research, our results indicate that strong legislatures make democracies in ‘developing’ countries more resilient. We also find that democracies are more likely to survive when they fully respect their citizens’ rights of assembly and association, and when economic growth is producing real improvements in their citizens’ quality of life. More surprising, we find that government censorship of the media (within a range in which a country can still be considered democratic) has little effect on the risk of democratic breakdown. Finally, our results also show that membership in the Commonwealth and the World Trade Organization (WTO) also seems to bolster prospects for the survival of democracy in non-OECD countries. At least in part, these effects appear to stem from the vigorous democracy-promoting efforts of the former and the institutional changes demanded by the latter.

Keywords: democracy, consolidation, development, coups

Suggested Citation

Ulfelder, Jay, Searching for Sources of Democratic Consolidation (August 6, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

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