Paul Poast, Johannes Urpelainen

How International Organizations Support Democratization: Preventing Authoritarian Reversals or Promoting Consolidation?

How do international organizations promote democratic transitions?

Given the importance of democratization for contemporary politics, scholars are exploring the domestic and international causes and consequences of democratization. While they agree that international organizations (IOs) contribute

positively to democratic transformation, Poast investigates the causal mechanisms through which they can be effective. Poast analyzed authoritarian reversals and democratic consolidation in the heyday of IOs, 1965–2001. He uses a spit-population model to estimate the probability of a state either consolidating into democracy or experiencing an authoritarian reversal. Poast argues that while IOs can promote democratic consolidation, they are unable to prevent authoritarian reversals in transitional democracies largely because IOs are not designed to use force. IOs can build capacity and coordinate expectations and thereby increase the likelihood of consolidating a transitional democracy. However, since IOs cannot enforce policy or directly intervene in conflict they cannot protect transitional democracies from coups and revolutions. These findings are relevant to some of the most important recent and current political transformations. In the Middle East and North Africa, the Arab Spring has created newly democratic polities that face tremendous difficulties in consolidating the basic elements of democratic governance, such as free and competitive elections. The results suggest that external actors interested in promoting democratization, such as the United States and many European states, could make a difference by opening the doors of important regional organizations to transitional democracies.

World Politics (2015)

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