Factors affecting success or failure of political transitions

Question

What evidence is there in the literature and country case studies on the main risks, trade-offs and factors that determine success or failure of political transitions?

Summary

Political transitions from authoritarian rule to democracy can have a variety of outcomes. This rapid literature review looks at the factors affecting the success or failure of political transitions. Because of the diverse nature of the countries that have experienced political transitions it is very difficult to come up with a list of ‘best practices’ (Lowenthal & Bitar, 2015, p. 16). However, there are a number of general factors affecting the success or failure of political transitions. These include:

  • The type of regime prior to the political transition: Dominant party regimes are the most likely form of autocratic regime to democratise.
  • The characteristics of the new leader of the transitional government: These have a significant influence on the success or failure of the transition process.
  • The influence of ICT: ICT can have both a positive and a negative influence on political transitions. It can bolster support for democracy but it can also serve to spread anti-democratic messages.

There is a considerable body of literature on political transitions. The literature consists of books, peer-reviewed journal articles and opinion pieces. The studies considered in this review use both quantitative and qualitative methods. In terms of regional focus, much of the literature looks at political transitions in the Middle East and North Africa in the context of the Arab Spring. The literature identified during the course of the research was largely ‘gender-blind’ and did not consider the perspectives of persons with disabilities.

Enquirer:

Suggested citation

Strachan, A.L. (2017). Factors affecting success or failure of political transitions. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.