Broken democracy

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In comparative political science, defective democracy is used to describe political systems in which democratic elections take place, but which, measured against the normative foundations of liberal democracies ( rights of participation , rights of freedom , control of violence, etc.) show various defects . These are mostly political systems that arose in the course of the third wave of democratization .

Development of the concept

The concept of “defective democracies” was developed at the beginning of the 21st century by the political scientists Wolfgang Merkel , Hans-Jürgen Puhle and Aurel Croissant . The aim was, on the one hand, to refine the distinction between totalitarian , authoritarian and democratic systems that has hitherto been common in political science . In particular, the countries of the former Eastern Bloc that are currently in transition did not fit into any of the previous categories, as they did not yet meet all the standards of the rule of law and liberal democracy, but could no longer be classified as totalitarian or authoritarian. On the other hand, the empirical analysis and comparability of government systems should be strengthened by making it possible to quantitatively evaluate defects in relation to democratization. On the basis of such an analytical concept, democratization and de-democratization processes of individual states can also be measured and indices (“rankings”) formed.


The theory of defective democracy is based on the concept of "embedded democracy" also developed by Wolfgang Merkel. This theoretical model understands well-developed, stable functioning democracies as systems of rule that consist of a structure of five interlocking partial regimes: a) a democratic electoral regime, b) the regime of political participation rights, c) the regime of civil liberties, d) the institutional safeguarding of the Control of power and e) the guarantee that effective governance lies with the democratically elected representatives. Deviating from this concept, systems are also referred to as democracy for short, in which access to power is secured through democratic elections , but the rule of law and fundamental rights are missing. In other cases, the actual monopoly of force does not lie with the elected representatives, but enables lobbyists , the military or a guerrilla to veto certain areas. Numerous combinations of “functioning” and “defective” sub-dimensions of a system of rule can be described in this way. Accordingly, the concept of defective democracy is an instrument for classifying existing real states empirically .

According to the much-cited definition by Wolfgang Merkel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Aurel Croissant et al. Defective democracies are “systems of rule which are characterized by the existence of a largely functioning democratic electoral regime to regulate access to power, but which, through disruptions in the functional logic of one or more of the other partial regimes, lose the complementary supports that are necessary in a functioning democracy to ensure freedom and equality and control are essential. "

Merkel, Puhle, Croissant et al. distinguish the following types of defective democracies:

Type Damaged sub-regime Examples
Exclusive democracy Electoral regime,
political participation rights
Brazil , Guatemala , Thailand
Illiberal democracy civil liberties Albania , Bangladesh , Brazil , Bolivia , Guatemala , El Salvador , Honduras , Macedonia , Mexico , Moldova , Nepal , Nicaragua , Panama , Paraguay , Peru , Philippines , Russia , Thailand , Ukraine
Delegative democracy horizontal control of violence Argentina , South Korea
Enclave democracy effective governance Chile , Ecuador , Indonesia


The concept of defective democracy is controversial in political science.

  • Some critics complain that the concept of democracy is stretched too far. Even countries with authoritarian traits could then still be described as defective democratic. Furthermore, from a core concept (“root concept” according to Sartori ), no subtypes can be derived that contradict exactly these core principles. If Merkel regards free and fair elections as the core principle of democracy, then a country without free and fair elections cannot be classified as a democracy, not even as a "defective" one.
  • Others believe that the concept of democracy is being narrowed down too much. Because there are hardly any states with fully functioning democracies besides the Western countries, almost all democracies have to be classified as “defective” (cf. Krennerich 2005).
  • Another criticism concerns the methodology:
  1. On the one hand, the pure use of deduction in the development of “embedded democracy”: It is impossible to apply a purely “Western” concept of democracy that has arisen in this way to Asian cases, for example.
  2. On the other hand, the formation of subtypes ( i.e. ideal types ). Thus, the illumination of the democratic gray area is not adequately possible. One should not understand such gray area regimes in terms of the Poles democracy or autocracy. Rather, they formed their own forms , which are called hybrid regimes and whose characteristics can therefore only be inferred by induction.

See also


  • Petra Bendel , Aurel Croissant, Friedbert W. Rüb (eds.): Between democracy and dictatorship. On the conception and empiricism of democratic gray areas. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2002, ISBN 3-8100-3087-2 .
  • Aurel Croissant, Peter Thiery: From defective and other democracies. In: WeltTrends. No. 29, 2001, pp. 9–33 ( PDF; 67 kB ).
  • Jörn Knobloch: Defective democracy or none? LIT, Münster / Hamburg / London 2002, ISBN 3-8258-6325-5 .
  • Michael Krennerich: Defective Democracy . In: Dieter Nohlen, Rainer-Olaf Schultze (Hrsg.): Lexicon of political science. Theories, methods, terms. Vol. 1 (A − M). 3. Edition. Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-54116-X , pp. 119-121.
  • Wolfgang Merkel : System Transformation. 2nd Edition. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2010, ISBN 3-531-14559-2 .
  • Wolfgang Merkel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle , Aurel Croissant, Claudia Eicher, Peter Thiery: Defect Democracies. Vol. 1: Theories. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2003, ISBN 3-8100-3234-4 .
  • Wolfgang Merkel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Aurel Croissant, Peter Thiery: Defect Democracies. Vol. 2: Defective democracies in Eastern Europe, East Asia and Latin America . VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-8100-3235-2 .
  • Guillermo O'Donnell : Delegative Democracy. In: Journal of Democracy. Vol. 5, No. 1, 1994, pp. 55-69.
  • Fareed Zakaria : The Rise of Illiberal Democracy. In: Foreign Affairs. 76th vol., No. 6, 1997, pp. 22-43.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfgang Merkel: The "embedded" democracy - an analytical concept. In: WZB-Mitteilungen. No. 106, 2004, pp. 7-10 ( PDF; 160 kB ).
  2. Wolfgang Merkel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Aurel Croissant, Claudia Eicher and Peter Thiery: Defected Democracy. Vol. 1: Theory. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2003, p. 66.
  3. Wolfgang Merkel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Aurel Croissant, Claudia Eicher and Peter Thiery: Defected Democracy. Vol. 1: Theory. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2003, p. 69 ff.
  4. ^ Wolfgang Merkel: Embedded and Defective Democracies. In: Democratization. Vol. 11, No. 5, 2004, pp. 33–58 ( PDF; 173 kB ( Memento of the original from January 12, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note. ). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /