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  • Democracy’s Future

With this issue, the Journal of Democracy celebrates its fifth anniversary. As a journal, and as an institution with democratic convictions, we have much to be grateful for. In our first five years, we have been fortunate to publish many of the world’s leading scholars of democracy. We have also provided a forum for a wide range of extraordinary people who have been at the forefront of democratic struggle, practice, and thought: Fang Lizhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Liu Binyan, Martin Lee, Václav Havel, Jacek Kuron, Bronislaw Geremek, Adam Michnik, G.M. Tamás, Galina Starovoitova, Nelson Mandela, Julio María Sanguinetti, Edgardo Boeninger, Mario Vargas Llosa, Raúl Alfonsín, Clement Nwankwo, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, and many others.

Democracy itself has also made great strides over the past five years. In late 1989, as we were preparing our first issue, Eastern Europe was just freeing itself from four and a half decades of communist dictatorship, and the Soviet Union was still Soviet, still a union, and decidedly unfree. The first freely elected government in Chile in two decades would not take office until March 1990. Not until February 1990 was Africa’s “second liberation” ignited with the national conference in Benin and the release of Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC in South Africa.

Five years later, democratic regimes are gradually taking hold—and undertaking difficult economic reforms—throughout Eastern and Central Europe. Though levels of actual civil and political freedom (and of governmental efficacy) may vary, there is no coherent movement or sentiment for a return to authoritarian rule, and democratic consolidation is proceeding on several fronts. The picture in Russia is less certain, with serious threats to democracy from military, neofascist, and neocommunist quarters. Elsewhere among the former Soviet republics, particularly in the Caucasus and Central Asia, hopes for democracy have frequently given way to one-party domination or violent conflict and fragmentation. Yet even in most of these areas, communism is dead and there is more pluralism in politics and civil society than before.

In Asia, Nepal and Bangladesh experienced democratic transitions during our first five years. Taiwan has virtually completed one, with an opposition party winning the mayoral race in Taipei last month and the first direct presidential elections due in 1996—capping one of the most remarkable peaceful political transformations of the postwar era. South Korea elected its first president with no prior military background in 30 years, Thailand its first such prime minister in 20 years. With important steps by the Kim Young Sam government to separate the military from [End Page 3] politics, extend civilian control, and reform financial practices, South Korea is moving toward democratic consolidation. Thailand’s regime remains more ambiguous, but its massive May 1992 demonstrations against military domination of politics, forcing constitutional changes and new elections, have made a future military coup much less likely.

Apart from the Middle East (and perhaps the former Soviet Union), Africa remains the region with the most stubborn persistence of authoritarian rule. Yet authoritarian regimes have been destabilized and delegitimated there as never before, and vigorous civil societies are emerging. Since 1990, more than two dozen African countries have held multiparty elections. Only about two-thirds of these have been judged free and fair by independent observers. Yet in 11 African countries—including South Africa, Zambia, Madagascar, and Malawi—incumbent parties and rulers have been voted out. And even where (as in Cameroon and Kenya) authoritarian regimes manipulated themselves back into power, potent democratic movements survive.

By the latest count of Freedom House—in its annual survey of “Freedom in the World” released last month—there are now 76 “free” countries. That is significantly more than the 65 at the beginning of 1990 (although there are also more countries in the world, owing to the breakup of the Soviet Union and other multinational states).

In terms of international legitimacy, democracy has gained enormous ground over the past five years. As the Journal’s “Documents” section has recorded, the leading multilateral organizations have become more and more outspoken in their support for democracy. Attacks on it still emanate from the few remaining Marxist regimes, from...

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