Consolidating Democracy in the Americas

Journal Articles
21785 small the annals of the american academy of political and social sciences

Although democracy is generally considered to be thriving in the Americas, it is in reality shallow and less stable than is assumed. Most of the democratic regimes in Central and South America have yet to achieve the deep and widespread legitimation at the elite and mass levels, and the behavioral consensus on the rules and constraints of democracy, that denote democratic consolidation. This article elaborates the concept of democratic consolidation and explains why it is important for understandingand improvingthe prospects for democracy in the Americas. It identifies three dimensions of democratic consolidation: deepening democratic structures to make them more liberal, accessible, accountable, and representative; strengthening the formal institutions of democracy, including parties, legislatures, and the judicial system; and improving regime performance, both economically and politically (by maintaining order, safeguarding liberty, and combating corruption). Ten specific challenges for democratic consolidation are then analyzed, and the importance of the regional and international environment is emphasized in conclusion.

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