From transition to defective democracy: Mapping Asian democratization

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This article undertakes a systematic inquiry of democratic development in Asia. It shows two main trends of democratization in south, south-east and north-east Asia. First, in most of the democracies the institutionalization of political rights exists side by side with stagnation or decline of the rule of law and civil liberties. Second, the quality of democracy in the different countries is growing further apart. While new democracies in north-east Asia are on the track to democratic consolidation, democracy in south Asia is on the edge or has already fallen victim to authoritarian renewal. In south-east Asia, democratic consolidation is stagnating. The article also provides for a systematic analysis of why and how defective democracies originate. It argues that not a single primary cause but a set of interconnected variables influences the track of democratic development. While 'Asian values', the type of colonial rule and ethnic heterogeneity give only weak support for democracy in Asia, socio-economic development, political institutions, stateness and political party systems are more important determinants. In the last section the article offers a sceptical outlook on the prospects for further liberal democratic development in Asia, arguing that for most young democracies in the region remaining a defective democracy is the most likely prospect in the near future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-178
Number of pages23
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Consolidation
  • Defective democracy
  • Democratization
  • Ethnicity
  • Pacific Asia


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