With friends like these, who needs democracy?

Feb 20, 2014
A study on modern civil wars and democracy by Michigan State University political scientist Michael Colaresi suggests countries that receive foreign aid during the war are much less likely to form democracies after. Credit: Michigan State University

From Ethiopia to Nicaragua, countries that go through civil war are much less likely to become democratic if the winning side gets help from rival nations, a Michigan State University political scientist argues.

In a new study examining democratization after civil wars since World War II, Michael Colaresi found the majority of groups that eventually took power failed to establish democratic governments if those groups took money or weapons from a foreign enemy during the war.

Receiving such aid can create mistrust among the nation's citizens and make it more difficult for the new regime to institute a democracy, which requires public consent for effective governance, said Colaresi, professor of political science.

"Leaders want to stay in power," Colaresi said. "If they try to build democratic institutions, they would then need public support and trust to continue to govern, which is no easy task if you have received support from enemies the public does not trust."

The study, published in the Journal of Peace Research, is the first to show which events within a can help to systematically forecast where post-conflict democratization is likely or unlikely to occur. Past research looked at factors such as the destructiveness of the war and whether the rebel group won, but failed to make a connection to future democracies.

Colaresi studied 136 civil wars from 1946 to 2009, 34 of which involved rivals aiding the winning side. Of those 34 countries, only one – Algeria – bucked the trend by becoming significantly more democratic over the next decade. The others either remained undemocratic or became substantially more repressive after the civil war.

This logic holds even if the public was unaware of the aid during the civil war. Colaresi noted that democracy in most cases involves greater transparency, holding elections, having a free press and an active legislature, meaning those previous unpopular ties eventually would become public – a disincentive to democratize.

In addition, anti-democratic effects of aid hold when the state providing support is itself democratic, such as the United States. "A tie to an unpopular external democracy," Colaresi said, "is still a potential electoral problem."

The findings have implications for world leaders trying to establish more democratic societies.

"If we want to build and better human rights in the Middle East and other places," Colaresi said, "we have to understand why groups accept aid from rival nations and help to create incentives that drive it out or at least counterincentives to build new governance."

Explore further: Study: Internet erodes democratic protections

More information: The study is titled "With friends like these, who needs democracy? The effect of transnational support from rivals on post-conflict democratization."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Internet erodes democratic protections

Jan 07, 2014

Claims that the internet will "democratize" the global village are not supported by research published in the International Journal of Electronic Governance. Instead, non-democratic governments simply exploit the networks to spy ...

Democracy trumps cash as key to Nobel success

Oct 07, 2013

For a scientist to win a Nobel Prize, many things have to come together—ample funding, a supportive environment, even luck. But one rarely recognised factor may be more important than any other: democracy.

Why rebel groups attack civilians

May 29, 2008

In civil war, rebel groups often target civilians despite the fact that their actual target is the government and that they are often dependent on the support of the civilian groups they attack. This may seem illogical, but ...

Recommended for you

Feeling bad at work can be a good thing

16 minutes ago

(Phys.org) —Research by the University of Liverpool suggests that, contrary to popular opinion, it can be good to feel bad at work, whilst feeling good in the workplace can also lead to negative outcomes.

3Qs: Citizen journalism in Ferguson

1 hour ago

Tensions have escalated in Ferguson, Missouri, following the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer. The incident has led to peaceful protests ...

Social inequality worsens in New Zealand

1 hour ago

Research by Dr Lisa Marriott, an associate professor in Victoria's School of Accounting and Commercial Law, and Dr Dalice Sim, Statistical Consultant in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, builds ...

The changing landscape of religion

22 hours ago

Religion is a key factor in demography, important for projections of future population growth as well as for other social indicators. A new journal, Yearbook of International Religious Demography, is the first to bring a quan ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

grpugh
not rated yet Feb 20, 2014
No surprise on this one. Think of how the War of Roses might have been had France been involved on the ground.

Such foreign support reduces the legitimacy of the winners.
ryggesogn2
3 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2014
""Leaders want to stay in power," Colaresi said. "If they try to build democratic institutions, they would then need public support and trust to continue to govern, which is no easy task if you have received support from enemies the public does not trust."

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

Why do leaders who want to stay in power want to build any democratic institutions?
BHO is trying to destroy those institutions in the USA to stay in power.
ryggesogn2
3 / 5 (2) Feb 21, 2014
""we have to understand why groups accept aid from rival nations "
This is not difficult.
What is difficult to understand is why BHO has destroyed relationships with former allies all over the world by supporting enemies like Iran and Islamic terrorists.