Institute of Political Science

Societal conflicts and forms of Government. A comparison of 28 Eastern countries

funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation

Project Leader

Klaus Armingeon

Research Collaborator

Romana Careja

Description

This project compares forms of government in countries formerly in the Soviet Union or among its satellite states – 28 in all. In the year 2000, Freedom House coded 11 of these countries as free, 12 as partly free and five as not free. The consolidation of democracy, in short, is hardly achieved in this group of countries, and it is questionable whether a large majority will develop into stable democracies in the next ten years or so. There are prominent and compatible explanations for why some of these countries are more democratic than others. One is the level of economic and social modernisation present before the transition to the new political order. This may be an important condition for solving the problem of simultaneous political and economic transitions. Another conspicuous prerequisite seems to be a wide distribution of economic, political, and military power across a range of individuals and groups. A third explanation is the degree of social organisation below the level of the state, the idea being that ‘civil society’ can be helpful in consolidating the democratic order. A fourth explanation refers to the ‘fit’ between politico-institutional structures and the problems stemming from structure of the particular national society, i.e. the conflicts due to the ethnic, cultural and regional cleavages of a given country.

While research on the extent of democracy in these 28 countries has produced a wealth of theoretical and empirical findings, there is a lack of systematic empirical research on forms of democratic government and how they correspond to ethnic, cultural, and regional structures. Research on consociational democracy has made it clear that in segmented societies it is difficult to maintain majoritarian (‘Westminster’) democratic forms of government. There must be institutional means to deal with the many conflicts stemming from the segmentation of society. This idea implies that -- in addition to other prerequisites for democracy -- the more segmented an Eastern national society, the more it requires institutions for regulating such societal conflicts. Without the latter, democracy would not be feasible. More homogeneous Eastern societies, in contrast, should have fewer hurdles and more institutional options on the way to full-fledged democracy. In sum, the idea is that while democracy in segmented societies depends on particular institutions to regulate conflicts (i.e. some form of consensus democracy), relatively non-segmented societies are compatible with both a competitive and a consensus democracy.

The goal of this project is to gather comparable data in order to test this hypothesis, and to map the 28 countries according to (a) societal segmentation, (b) institutions favourable to consociational politics, and (c) the extent and stability of the democratic order, while controlling for the other general preconditions of democracy.

Hence, at the core of the project will be a set of comparable data for these 28 countries. It will be analysed in four studies: A comparative quantitative analysis, and three country analyses of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, all three done in comparative perspective.

Publication 

The Comparative Data Set for 28 Post-Communist Countries, 1989–2004, is a collection of political and institutional data which has been assembled in the context of the research project “Forms of Government. A Comparative Data Set for 28 Eastern Countries,“ directed by Klaus Armingeon and funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. It consists of annual data for 28 former communist countries, covering the period from 1989 to 2004. For member states of the former Soviet Union, the entries cover the period following their official independence from the USSR (mostly after 1991 and 1992).

The data set contains additional demographic, and socio-economic variables.

The data set is offered in two formats: 1. Excel files, with detailed information, including information on sources; and 2. SPSS files, suitable for cross-national, longitudinal and pooled time series analyses.

In any work using data from this data set, please quote both the data set and, where appropriate, the original source. Please quote this data set as: Klaus Armingeon and Romana Careja, Comparative Data Set for 28 Post-Communist Countries, 1989-2004, Institute of Political Science, University of Berne, 2004.