WHY DO DEMOCRACIES FAIL * Mareeg.com somalia, World News and Opinion.
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In this short essay excerpted from the Political Science: An Introduction written by James A. Medeiros and Walter S. Jones. I will begin with a various definitions of democracy then look critically at why democratic systems in 21st century will not prevail and what causes them to decay.

According to Greek Philosopher – Cleon – “That shall be democratic which shall be of the people, by the people, for the people.” What does it mean is very simple that anything which happens as a functioning of the state it must be of the people, it should be by the people, and it should be for the welfare of the citizens. Likewise, Lord Bryce came up with another definition of democracy. Accordingly, the word democracy “Has been used ever since the time of Herodotus to denote that form of government in which ruling power of a state is legally vested, not in any particular classes, but in the member of the community as a whole.” Therefore, according to Bryce the term democracy is a very historical one and it has been used since the time of ancient Greek.

J. S. Mill presents an elite-based definition of democracy. He defined it as “A form of government in which the whole people or some numerous portion of them, exercise the governing power through disputed periodically elected by them.” He argues that democracy is a form of power where entire people can’t be a part of a governing structure. In fact, a few of them (political elites) governs the state and these few elites get their power by election. In conversely, a simple definition given by Sir John Seeley says “Democracy as a government in which everyone has a share [saamilley].”


Democracy can actually come too soon in the political life of a nation. Stable democracy has historically taken root in countries with large, educated middle class. As Barrington Moore observed in 1966, “no bourgeoisie, no democracy.” People in poor countries like [Somalia] care more about survival than democracy. In 2004 UN survey of Latin America, a majority said they preferred a dictator who puts food on the table to an elected leader who does not. (This survey is available at BARAARUG LIBRARY. You can download it from here:


Middle classes bring with them moderation, tolerance, and the realization that not everything can be fixed at once. Without that, elections can undermine democracy, as seen as in Iraq, Russia, and Mali.

The transition to democracy is delicate and happens best slowly and gradually, as it did in Britain with a series of Reform Acts during the 19 century. Typically, during the first decades of democracy, only the better-off can participate, a pattern called Whig democracy.

Newly unsophisticated voters often fail for the extravagant or extremist promises of crooked politicians, who offer simple solutions to get the votes of the gullible. Tedodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial New Guinea, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola, Idriss Deby of Chad, and Chavez of Venezuela are examples. However, democracy in a country with all or most of the following characteristics rarely succeeds:

Clannism (tribalism)
Little civil society
Low education levels
No earlier democratic experience
No democratic countries nearby
No middle class
Major inequality
By Hassan Mudane

Africa Analyst



Cord, R. L., Medeiros, J. A., & Jones, W. S. (1974). Political science: An introduction. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

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