UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Undertow in the third wave : understanding the reversion from democracy Ferguson, Peter Allyn


In 2007, the world suffered a net decline in freedom for the second successive year for the first time in fifteen years. There are indications of global democratic stagnation. Coups and democratic reversions continue to occur. Why do regimes sometimes experience reversions away from democracy? An analysis of data from 1972-2003 indicates that for every $1 increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, the odds of a democratic reversion decrease 0.2%; for each 1% increase in GDP growth, the odds of a democratic reversal decrease 9.2%; and, for each 1 unit increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI), there is a 4.1% increase in the likelihood of democratic reversion. When the analysis is limited strictly to a comparison of democratic reversion cases and ongoing democratic regimes, variables addressing political institutional configurations, vulnerabilities to international pressures and civilian control over the military are either insignificant or provide very little purchase for explaining variance on the dependent variable. The dissertation includes thirty case studies of reversions from democracy, representing one universe of such cases from 1975-2003. Based on an analysis of these cases, several conclusions may be drawn. On economic issues, the case studies indicate we should be cautious in overstating the importance of economic performance and they draw attention to the problematic nature of analyses based on one year lags. The importance of legislative gridlock, particularly during an economic crisis is highlighted. High levels of legislative fractionalization are found to increase reversion risks. Younger democracies are also found to be more vulnerable, as each additional year a democratic regime is in existence decreases reversion risks by 3.8%. The consideration of international influences on costs associated with reversion decisions is found to be relevant. The case analysis indicates attempts to assert civilian control over the military are likely to increase reversion risks. Based on a rational choice analysis and a case study of the Philippines, higher levels of democratic uncertainty are found to reduce reversion risks by allowing actors to tolerate lower levels of goods in light of the potential for future democratic change.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International