Is Government Contestability an Integral Part of the Definition of Democracy?
Posted: 11 Mar 2019
Date Written: February 19, 2019
Is government contestability an integral part of the definition of democracy? The answer to this question affects the way we classify political systems in which, despite a formally open political structure, a dominant political group faces weak opposition from other political parties and civil society organizations – an indication of a low degree of government contestability. In Robert Dahl’s polyarchy, contestability is an essential dimension of democracy and, consequently, one-party dominance is classified as an ‘inclusive hegemony’ outside his conception of democracy. For procedural definitions of democracy, however, dominant party systems are legitimate outcomes of electoral competition provided that there have been no formal restrictions to the exercise of civil and political rights. The article examines the boundaries between democracy and authoritarianism, broadens the notion of authoritarian controls to include soft manipulative practices and explains why government contestability should be regarded as a constitutive property of democracy.
Keywords: Democracy, Authoritarianism, Pluralism, Robert Dahl, Hybrid Regimes, Dominant Party Systems, Definition of Democracy, Hegemony, Authoritarianism, Popular Sovereignty
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