Events throughout 2011 have demonstrated that terrorism remains a high priority for nation-states through the world. Regime and nation-state stability have played an influential role, particularity in the Middle East and Africa in affecting global terrorism. In an attempt to map out what 2012 may bring, examining regime political stability is a useful starting point for a look at global terrorism in 2012. Here Jay Ulfelder provides an engaging and thought-provoking examination into the likelihood of transitions in 2012 of autocracies into democracies.
2011 was a year of remarkable democratic ferment, as citizens in an unusually large and diverse set of countries took to public spaces to demand more dignity in their lives and more accountability from their governments.
In nearly all cases, the democratization those protesters are demanding remains incomplete. While Occupy participants in the United States rightly decry the occasional act of police brutality against them, the gap yawns widest in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes, which still “occupy” more than two of every five countries, including some of the richest and most populous.
Which of those authoritarian regimes are “ripest” for transitions to democracy in 2012? To help answer that question, I used a statistical technique called Bayesian model averaging to identify and weight a number of risk factors and then applied those weights to the most recent data available. The result is a set of probabilistic forecasts of democratic transition for all countries worldwide currently under authoritarian rule.
For purposes of this forecasting exercise, political regimes are categorized in “either/or” fashion. A regime is considered to be a democracy when it meets all of the four conditions enumerated below. A regime that fails to satisfy any of these conditions is considered to be an autocracy.
- Elected officials rule. No unelected individuals (say, a king, like Abdullah II of Jordan or Mohammed VI of Morocco) or organization (say, a military junta, like Egypt’s SCAF) determine or direct policy outcomes.
- Elections are fair and competitive. Elections offer voters a meaningful choice between candidates and are free of widespread fraud and abuse.
- Politics is inclusive. All adult citizens–male and female, without regard to racial or communal identity–have equal rights to vote and participate in politics.
- Civil liberties are respected. The government generally recognizes and protects freedoms of speech, association, and assembly.
A transition to democracy occurs when a government chosen by fair, competitive, and inclusive elections takes office (assuming the other conditions enumerated above hold as well). The transition is dated to the installation of the new government, not the elections. This rule avoids treating aborted transitions, such as the one that occurred in Algeria in 1991, as equivalent to the establishment of democracy. Conceptually, the idea is that the authoritarian regime remains in place until a new government is actually installed, and as such, that authoritarian government may veto the transition at any moment until that handover of power.
Predicted probability chart - click image to enlarge
The chart adjacent plots the estimated likelihood of transition in 2012 for all autocracies worldwide, based on preliminary data from 2011. One thing that’s immediately noticeable about these scores is that they are all pretty low. If you check the scale on the bottom axis, you’ll see that most scores are under 10%, and many are approximately zero. To some extent, that’s an artifact of the rarity of these events. On average, only a few democratic transitions happen worldwide each year, so the easiest way to make a forecast that’s about 95% accurate is simply to say they won’t happen anywhere. The point of an exercise like this one is not to identify precisely which countries will transition when, a task that’s still well beyond the reach of current data and methods (and will probably remain so forever). Instead, it’s better to think of the list as an attempt to identify which of the world’s authoritarian regimes are most likely to experience the few transitions we might expect to see over the course of 2012.
I hope the forecasts stand on their own, but I’ll offer comments on some the results that I found most surprising or intriguing.