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Article

Myanmar: Civil–Military Relations in a Tutelary Regime  

Marco Bünte

Myanmar has had one of the longest ruling military regimes in the world. Ruling directly or indirectly for more than five decades, Myanmar’s armed forces have been able to permeate the country’s main political institutions, its economy, and its society. Myanmar is a highly revealing case study for examining the trajectory of civil–military relations over the past seven decades. Myanmar ended direct military rule only in 2011 after the military had become the most powerful institution in society, weakened the political party opposition severely, coopted several ethnic armed groups, and built up a business empire that allowed it to remain financially independent. The new tutelary regime—established in 2011 after proclaiming a roadmap to “discipline flourishing democracy” in 2003, promulgating a new constitution in 2008, and holding (heavily scripted) elections in 2010—allowed a degree of power-sharing between elected civilian politicians and the military for a decade. Although policymaking in economic, financial, and social arenas was transferred to the elected government, the military remained in firm control of external and internal security and continued to be completely autonomous in the management of its own affairs. As a veto power, the military was also able to protect its prerogatives from a position of strength. Despite this dominant position in the government, civil–military relations were hostile and led to a coup in February 2021. The military felt increasingly threatened and humiliated as civilians destroyed the guardrails it had put in place to protect its core interests within the tutelary regime. The military also felt increasingly alienated as the party the military had established repeatedly failed to perform in the elections.

Article

National Secession  

Philip G. Roeder

National secession seeks to create a new sovereign state for a nation residing on its homeland that is currently located inside another sovereign state. This goal distinguishes national secession from regional secession, autonomy, and decolonization and shapes the strategies, operational objectives, and tactical choices of the leaders of national-secession campaigns. Explanations for the success of some campaigns—particularly, success at getting on the global agenda—have focused on the identities, grievances, or greed of their members. Explanations for why some campaigns have turned to protracted intense violence have focused on these motivations and on tactical-logistical opportunities. The existing literature suffers from its failure to agree on theoretical and conceptual fundamentals. As a consequence, empirical studies focus on very different universes of cases and operationalize key variables in diverging ways. The existing literature frequently does not consider how the goal of national secession constrains the strategies, operations, and tactics of such campaigns. And so, it often fails to consider whether studies with another dependent variable can be extended to the study of national secession. Explanations stress indeterminate or substitutable causes and remote constraints on most national-secession campaigns—causes and constraints taken “off the shelf” from theories about conflicts operating under very different strategic and operational constraints. Missing from these explanations is the authenticity and realism of the programs for national secession in the assessments of the populations that each program presents as a nation with a right to a sovereign state of its own. Explanations and recommendations for responses by common-state governments, their allies, and the international community often fail to understand the centrality of the war of programs between national secessionists and common-state governments and the ways this constrains what compromises are possible and what responses are most likely to lead to domestic and international peace in such conflicts.

Article

Nicaragua’s Troubled Transition to Democracy  

Shelley A. McConnell

Nicaragua was among the last countries in Latin America to become democratic and among the first to regress to authoritarian practices. It has thus been a fertile testing ground for theories of democratic development, addressing hypotheses about whether leftist revolutions can produce democracy, the difficulties inherent in wartime transitions to democracy, and the roles that foreign actors play in constraining and fostering democratic governance. After achieving independence from Spain in 1823, Nicaragua fell under the hegemony of the expansionist United States and endured a lengthy U.S. occupation. The U.S.-supported Somoza dictatorship was overthrown in 1979 by a revolution that brought to power the socialist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The FSLN initially implemented a progressive authoritarian regime under an appointed junta while fostering widespread political participation channeled through mass organizations associated with the party. Policies that centered on improving equality for the majority at the expense of traditional elites and the private sector drew U.S. hostility. For a decade, U.S.-sponsored counterrevolutionary forces made war on Nicaragua in an attempt to unseat the Sandinista government, and a U.S. trade and financial embargo deeply damaged the economy. During that time, Nicaragua put in place a presidential system, permitted the development of opposition political parties, held partially competitive elections in 1984, and in 1987 inaugurated a constitution that mixed socialist and liberal principles. The 1984 elections were boycotted by right-wing opponents but shifted the basis of legitimate governance from winning the revolution to winning at the ballot box. In 1990, Nicaragua held competitive and internationally observed elections convened as one element of a regionwide Central American peace process. The FSLN lost in an upset that yielded an alteration in power signaling the advent of democracy. After negotiating to depoliticize the armed forces, President Violeta Chamorro took office and signed peace agreements with the counterrevolutionaries. For a decade, democracy prevailed and was deepened via a constitutional reform that transferred budgetary power to the legislature, shortened the presidential term, and prohibited immediate reelection to the presidency. In opposition, the FSLN employed both social mobilization tactics and parliamentary procedure to defend their constituents. Liberal remnants from the Somoza era regrouped and won the presidency in 1996. Democratic consolidation proved elusive, however, and instead the caudillo leaders of the FSLN and liberal parties, former President Daniel Ortega and then-President Arnoldo Alemán, reached a pact through which they radically reduced the political space available to smaller parties and assumed exclusive joint control of state institutions. The liberals again won election in 2001, but after their party split in 2006, Ortega was reelected to the presidency. The new FSLN government introduced progressive policies that reduced poverty, but the quality of elections declined and presidential term limits were abolished, introducing a competitive authoritarian regime. The FSLN then eliminated rival parties from serious contention and used legal reforms to consolidate a one-party-dominant system lacking horizontal and vertical accountability and marked by old political patterns of caudillo rule, elite pacts, and personalist rule centered on a single family.

Article

The Politics and Effects of Religious Grievance  

David Muchlinski

Despite international guarantees to respect religious freedom, governments around the world often impose substantial restrictions on the abilities of some religious groups to openly practice their faith. These regulations on religious freedom are often justified to promote social stability. However, research has demonstrated a positive correlation between restrictions on religious freedom and religious violence. This violence is often thought to be a result of grievances arising from the denial of a religious group’s right to openly practice its faith. These grievances encourage violence by (a) encouraging a sense of common group identity, (b) encouraging feelings of hostility toward groups imposing those regulations, and (c) facilitating the mobilization of religious resources for political violence.

Article

The Politics of Crisis Terminology  

Allan McConnell

The politics of crisis terminology is rarely examined directly. Crisis is an “umbrella,” under which resides a multitude of terms such as accidents, emergencies, fiascos, disasters, and catastrophes, as well as variations such as natural disasters, transboundary crises, and mega-crises. Yet the sheer diversity and frequent ambiguity among terms reflects the “politics” of how societies and political actors seek to cope with and address extreme events, which often pose a mixture of threat and opportunity. Central to an understanding is how (a) different terms are means of framing issues such as the scale and causes of the crisis, (b) crisis terms are part of governing strategies, and (c) nongovernmental actors (opposition parties, media, lobby groups, social movements, and citizens) can seek to influence government. A pivotal point in developing an understanding of crisis terminology is that rather bemoaning the lack of singular meanings for crisis and associated terms, or criticizing actors for “abuse” of the terms, one should recognize and accept that complex and contested crisis language and definitions are in themselves manifestations of politics in political societies.

Article

Power Sharing as a Strategy to Resolve Political Crises in Africa  

Michael Bratton and Peter Penar

Power sharing is often offered as a strategy to resolve political crises. In contrast to power capture and power division, power sharing entails exercising power in cooperation with rival groups. The outcome of power sharing largely rests on the purpose and context of the agreement. Power sharing has proven effective at attenuating political violence and providing stability when enacted to guide a transition from white-minority to black-majority rule in former settler states (e.g., South Africa) or to bring persistent civil wars to an end (e.g., Sierra Leone and Burundi). However, in the context of an election dispute, power sharing fails to solve the underlying concerns that contribute to election-related conflict. Although power sharing may attenuate or end violence, the outcome is poor reconciling election winners and losers and deepening democratic practices (e.g., Kenya and Zimbabwe). Recognizing the failure of power sharing after election disputes, external mediators—particularly in West Africa (e.g., Côte d’Ivoire and The Gambia)—have tended to emphasize maintaining normal constitutional processes rather than power-sharing settlements.

Article

Religious Nationalism and Religious Influence  

Anna Grzymala-Busse

Religious nationalism, or the fusion of religious and national identities and goals, is an increasingly salient aspect of nationalism. Rather than secular nationalism simply replacing religious identities and allegiances, religious and national identities coexist and even reinforce each other. Such religious nationalism becomes a powerful force in buttressing popular religiosity and attitudes, empowers religious organizations in influencing policy across a wide range of domains, and shapes the patterns of inter- and intra-state violence. The two implications of these findings are that we should invest in better measures and operationalization of religious nationalism and reconsider the logics of state- and nation-building.

Article

Religious Regulation: The Regulation of All Religion in a Country  

Jonathan Fox

Countries can regulate both the majority religion and minority religions. Although most countries do both, the motivations and dynamics of these two types of regulation are distinct. The regulation, restriction, or control by a government of all religion in a country, including the majority religion, can take multiple forms. These include regulating (1) religion’s role in politics, (2) religious institutions and clergy, (3) religious practices, and (4) other aspects of religion. At least one form of religious regulation is engaged in by 95.5% of governments, and religious regulation is becoming more common over time. Regulating, restricting, and controlling religion is the norm worldwide regardless of world region, government type, and majority religion. Multiple motivations exist for regulating, restricting, and controlling majority religions. (1) Some countries have secular or anti-religious national ideologies. (2) Some countries support religion, but countries that support a religion often also want to influence and control that religion. In fact, control is a nearly inevitable consequence of support. (3) Politicians often fear religion’s potential political power and seek to keep it in check. (4) Autocratic governments often seek to restrict any aspect of civil culture they cannot control, and this includes religion. On the other hand, regulation is costly. It requires resources that can be used elsewhere, so regulating religion represents a decision to use resources despite these costs.

Article

The Republic of the Congo: The Colonial Origins of Military Rule  

Joshua Shaw and Brett Carter

The Republic of Congo secured its independence from France in 1960. The French colonial apparatus bequeathed an ethnically divided society. Native southerners dominated the sprawling civil service and, owing to their demographic advantage, elected Congo’s first two presidents, themselves both southerners. Native northerners, otherwise marginalized economically and politically, dominated the military’s rank and file. This cleavage has animated Congolese politics since. In 1969, a clique of northern military officers toppled the southern-dominated Brazzaville government. Among its members was former paratrooper Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled Congo for all but 5 years since 1979. His tenure has been marked by massive corruption, gross economic mismanagement, and persistent human rights abuses. Accordingly, despite its status as one of Africa’s leading oil producers, Congolese citizens remain among the world’s poorest. To secure his political survival, Sassou Nguesso has used Congo’s longstanding ethnic cleavage as a tool: by directing state resources to northerners and using the northern-dominated military to repress southerners, who, after enduring nearly 50 years of northern rule, are profoundly frustrated.

Article

Revolutions and Constitutional Crisis  

Johannes Vüllers

Revolutionary actions and constitutional crises are closely linked. However, research mainly looks at the two phenomena as distinct from each other. While studies on revolutionary actions are interested in the agency and the impact of the actions on the country’s institutions, legal research focuses on the constitution itself. The separation of the two strands leads to a limited understanding of their dynamics and complexity. What do we know about the relationship between revolutionary actions and constitutional crisis, and vice versa? The first question is how revolutionary actions trigger constitutional crisis, defined as a moment in which decision makers are unwilling or unable to manage the societal conflicts within the confinement of the constitutionally provided boundaries. Different types of revolutionary behavior—such as elite-led military coups, civil wars, and nonviolent resistance movements—trigger constitutional crises in many cases. They can lead to a new constitution with diverse implications for the political system. Whether the opposition or the old regime prevails in the constitutional crisis is a question of the power resources of both parties to the conflict. In some cases, the opposition movements succeed in making the political system more democratic. However, there are also cases where the constitutional crisis ultimately leads to more power for the ruling class. The relationship also works vice versa: a constitutional crisis can trigger revolutionary actions. Constitutional coups, and processes of democratic backsliding and constitutional rot, can trigger violent and nonviolent revolutionary actions. Political elites can try to change constitutional norms for their own benefit, such as extending the presidential term of office. This often leads to a storm of public protest and can become a real threat to the regime’s survival. A constitution can enter a crisis phase for a long time if it no longer serves the needs of parts of society. The injustices that thus arise within society can be a strong motive for revolutions. The combination of agency and constitutional processes is a promising avenue for future research that could help analyze the complex relationship between constitutional crises and revolutionary actions. In addition to innovative theoretical approaches, new empirical data is needed to examine the process of constitutional negotiation in more detail.

Article

Romania: Civil-Military Relations in the Modern Age  

Marian Zulean

Romania has no tradition in militarism despite its history of authoritarian regimes in 20th century. The process of modernization and democratization that started in the middle of 19th century was interrupted for about half a century by the authoritarian regime of King Carol II (1938), followed by a military dictatorship during World War II, and continued with a Communist dictatorship until 1989. The transition to democracy started in 1990 from a very low level, Ceausescu’s regime being one of the fiercest dictatorial regimes. However, Romania succeeded in building up a functional democracy and market economy with Western assistance that transformed it into a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). One basic conditionality to the admission into NATO and the EU was putting the military under civilian control and building up democratic civil–military relations. Thus, Romania has no history of military involvement in politics. After three decades of transition, Romania implemented a complex mechanism of democratic control of the military. However, issues regarding the incomplete internalization of democratic norms of control of the military, resistance to change through the system of military education, an obsolete national security legislation, and some legacy practices related to rights abuses perpetrated by intelligence services need to be addressed in order to consider Romania a consolidated democracy.

Article

Rwanda: Civil–Military Relations  

Marco Jowell

The army has been a central part of Rwanda’s political system from the precolonial period until the early 21st century and is intrinsically part of the construction and politics of the state. Civil–military relations in Rwanda demonstrate not only the central features of transitioning a rebel group to a national defense sector but also how some states construct their armed forces after a period of mass violence. Since the civil war and genocide in the early 1990s, the Rwandan military has been the primary actor in politics, the economy, and state building as well as in regional wars in central Africa and the Great Lakes region. Practical experiences of guerrilla insurgency and conflict in Uganda and Rwanda, postconflict military integration, and the intertwining of political and economic agendas with the ruling party have shaped civil–military relations in Rwanda and have been central to how the Rwandan defense sector functions. Contemporary Rwandan civil–military relations center around the two elements of service delivery and control, which has resulted in the development of an effective and technocratic military in terms of remit and responsibilities on the one hand, and the creation of a politicized force of coercion on the other hand. The military in Rwanda therefore reflects the pressures and dynamics of the wider state and cannot be separated from it. The Rwandan army is thus a “political army” and is part and parcel of the political structures that oversee and govern the Rwandan state.

Article

Serbia’s Civil-Military Relations  

Filip Ejdus

When, how, why, and to what effect did the military involve itself in Serbia’s politics? Due to its decisive role in national liberation and state-building, the Serbian military has always enjoyed high societal reputation. Since the 19th century, the military also played an important role of a nation-builder and social elevator for the lower strata of society. However, Serbia also has a very long tradition of military involvement in politics with several coups that decisively shaped the course of national history. Since the outset of Serbia’s state-building in the first half of the 19th century, Serbia experienced four successful military coups and many occasions when its armed forces were used to quash domestic unrest. The reasons behind the robust involvement of armed forces in Serbian (and Yugoslav politics) have been diverse and ranged from an ambition to provide internal stability and defend national or corporate interests to a desire to change the country’s foreign policy orientation. Since the end of the Cold War, the military played an ambiguous role on some occasions undermining democracy, while on others being an agent of democratic transformation. Since 2006, the military of Serbia has been placed under civilian democratic control and seems to have internalized its role of a politically neutral and professional force with a mission to defend the country, support civilian authorities in the event of emergency, and contribute to international peace and security. Still, the ongoing democratic backsliding, the lack of clarity about the state’s strategic outlook, and the still unresolved status of Serbia’s former province Kosovo all preserve the potential for civil-military tensions in the future.

Article

South Korea: The Journey Toward Civilian and Democratic Control Over the Military  

Carl J. Saxer

Many have seen the establishment of civilian and democratic control over the military as a necessary, although not sufficient, condition for the consolidation of a nascent democracy. The establishment of civilian and democratic control over the military in South Korea was a long and, some would argue, uncompleted process. A coup in 1961 led by Park Chung-hee, a major-general, led to the establishment of an authoritarian regime that, while going civilian, was based on the control of the military and the intelligence services. Park was assassinated by the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency in October 1979; however, the hopes of moving in the direction of democracy were soon squashed when Chun Doo-hwan, and his comrades in arms from the secret Hanahoe (One Mind) club of Korean Military Academy graduates, first took power over the military through an internal coup, and then took control over the government. Under significant internal, and external, pressure Chun Doo-hwan agreed to step down from the presidency in 1987 and allow the writing of a new constitution that led to free elections to the presidency in December 1987. The opposition lost the 1987 election due to its inability to agree upon a united candidate. The winner was Roh Tae-woo, a participant in the 1979–1990 coup, who would during his presidency take important steps when it came to establishing civilian control over the military. However, it was first with the inauguration of the Kim Young-sam in 1993 that the establishment of firm civilian control was achieved. He engaged in a significant reorganization of, and moved against the power of the secret societies within, the army. He also promoted the idea of a politically neutral military. This most likely played a significant role when Kim Dae-jung, the first opposition candidate, won the presidency in December 1997, as the military remained neutral and accepted the outcome of the electoral process. There has since been a strengthening of civilian control over the military in South Korea. However, there are a number of important issues that need to be dealt with in order to ensure full democratic control over the military and the intelligence services. While the military, as an institution, has stayed neutral in politics, military and intelligence resources have been used in attempts at influencing public opinion in the lead-up to elections. In addition, comprehensive oversight by the legislature continues to be weak and the National Security Law remains on the books.

Article

The Dominican Republic: From Military Rule to Democracy  

Ellen D. Tillman

Due to regionalism and both internal and external military interventions in politics, it was not until the last quarter of the 20th century that the Dominican Republic began a (true) transition to free democratic institutions in politics. While various forms of militarism and militarization dominated most of Dominican politics—and much of society—from independence to that period, liberalization from the 1970s and beyond led to a downsizing in military and police power and relatively stable and peaceful electoral transitions between legitimate political contenders. From independence in 1844 to the late 19th century, Dominican politics was characterized largely by fragmentation and caudillo warfare, including an 1861 reannexation to Spain and a long Restoration War to restore independence in 1865. These trends encouraged militarization in many aspects of society, and elevated many men of military experience and fame in politics. Despite a brief late-19th-century period of liberalization, the country quickly fell under the dictatorship of Ulíses Heureaux, whose caudillo system of rule was reinforced and funded through extensive internal and external loans—the latter of which were gradually taken over by the United States. His assassination in 1899 pushed the Dominican Republic into a series of governments and civil wars that, considering growing U.S. influence and interest, led to the direct U.S. military occupation of the country from 1916 to 1924. Using the structures of military centralization built up under the occupation, under which he had been trained, Rafael Trujillo took over the Dominican government at the end of the 1920s. He ruled from 1930 to 1961. While Trujillo’s rule built a semblance of a government with civilian branches, he used military intimidation and violence both to control and to modernize the state. After his assassination, the long-term military, political, and societal consequences of Trujillo’s dictatorship continued to hinder democratic development, yet some elements actually improved the possibilities of a democratic state, including economic growth, urbanization, and the consequent growth of a middle class, which challenged former followers of Trujillo such as Joaquín Balaguer through the 1960s and 1970s. By the mid-1970s and into the 1980s, the popular Dominican challenge to military intervention in politics aided the downsizing of the Trujillista military and therefore the power of the armed forces to intervene in the political system. The presidencies of Antonio Guzmán and Salvador Jorge Blanco in the late 1970s and 1980s, while peacefully and legally elected, were marred by corruption, yet popular pressure and personal interest caused these administrations to gradually scale back the armed forces and their role in politics. Through the 1980s and 1990s, a centralized and efficient civilian-controlled government formed. Despite some difficulties in transition, due to such issues as the fragility of early democratic institutions and International Monetary Fund–imposed austerity measures of the 1980s, by the mid-1990s the Dominican Republic had conducted highly contested but fair elections without direct police or military interference in the political process.

Article

Venezuela: Coup-Proofing From Pérez Jiménez to Maduro  

Deborah L. Norden

From the middle of the 20th century, Venezuela’s governments have demonstrated surprising immunity to successful coups. The more than 40-year Punto Fijo democracy (1958–1999) boasted free and competitive elections even while the vast majority of Latin American governments fell to military rule. Two decades later, the beleaguered government of Nicolás Maduro withstood not only national, but international demands for a military coup under conditions of virtual economic collapse and extreme political crisis. This resilience is largely a function of successful coup-proofing—deliberate government policies to both reward military loyalty and defend against possible dissent. The Bolivarian leaders of the early 21st century—Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro— built on a combination of strategies previously utilized by either the Pérez Jiménez military regime (1948–1958) or the Punto Fijo democratic regime, notably expanding such elements as politicization and the creation of competing militarized forces (counterbalancing) to fit with the revolutionary model that the chavistas sought to pursue.