Southern democracy is term used in political science to describe systems of government which are functionally more than nominally democratic, but which are characteristically illiberal, with significant power in government being wielded by those outside the democratic system. The "southern" descriptor in the term refers to how the model is most prevalent in the global south, but also more specifically, the south of Coius.
The term was first coined and applied by Albert Kavagamu, a Dezevauni political theorist, author and later leader of the Liberal Party, in his book The End of Politics. He capitalised it as "Southern democracy", but since then, it has been more common (including in his own works) to leave the term uncapitalised, as in "southern democracy". The term has found some currency in media outside of academia.
Kavagamu, in The End of Politics, published in 1999, attempted to classify extant political and governmental systems into types. Of democracies, he said there were primarily three stable varieties: liberal, council-socialist and "Southern". The terms "liberal democracy" and "council-socialist" were not novel in his publication; he gave Estmere, Gaullica and Halland as examples of the former, and Swetania and Dezevau as examples of the latter. "Southern democracy" was, however, a new term, and he applied it to Senria, Xiaodong (as well as Jindao), and x. He justified his choice of the term as an attempt to avoid coining something unintuitive, prescriptive, or vague.
According to him, Southern democracies had a democratic-republican system of politics at their core; they were ruled by politicians whose power was essentially legitimised by popular approval generally expressed through elections, and their power was not absolute, but beholden at least in minor or specific ways, either legally or culturally, to institutions such as courts, civil services, the media or subnational governmental entities. However, these democracies were neither liberal either culturally or economically, nor did they tend to have decentralising and radically egalitarian tendencies as socialist democracies did. He proposed that characteristics of a Southern democracy included:
- social conservatism (in particular, a lack of pluralism)
- nationalism (or other sources of localised or exclusionary identification, such as religion)
- power being held in non-democratic, domestic, hierarchical institutions such as militaries and bureaucracies
- policies which emphasised stability.
These characteristics, he said, could be tied together in the way that they reflected a conception of the country as a united, largely homogeneous community. Democracy was necessary in these systems to reflect the will of the people, but unlike in liberal or socialist democracies, the will of the people was seen to be ideally unanimous, and unchanging over long periods of time; hence, Southern democracies tolerated, even encouraged, conservative and anti-pluralist measures. Politics in a Southern democracy, according to his theory, is only the tool by which politicians or relatively minor aspects of policy may be changed; the underlying assumption is that the singular national will can be and always is being elucidated by enduring cultural and political institutions and policies, even where they are not democratic per se.
Despite the recent end of the twenty year-long period of martial law under Nishant Balchandra under which all democratic elections at all levels of government were suspended, Kavagamu stated in The End of Politics that the 1997 Ajahadyan presidential election result and Nishant's narrow defeat showed that "Despite twenty years without democracy, the Southern Democratic political framework laid down by the founders of the UFRS survived martial law and swiftly reasserted itself once it was in a position to do so." Kavagamu pointed to the strong Pan-Satrian nationalism that has dominated Ajahadyan foreign policy, the constitutional binding of all political parties into a bloc party system at the federal level under the president's party, the extensive use of political machines by parties at the state level, the strength of internal party bureaucracy and family ties, the difficulty in getting a newly-created political party onto the ballot and the 8-year length of a presidential term to ensure stability and continuity as characteristics that make Ajahadya a southern democracy.
Kavagamu pointed to Senria as "an archetypal Southern democracy" in The End of Politics. He noted that the country "transparently exhibited" all the characteristics of a Southern democracy, including a history of authoritarian strongman rule (particularly exemplified by Katurou Imahara and Takesi Takahata); a strong emphasis on nationalism in politics; the outsized political influence held by the bureaucracy of the Senrian state, the Aikokutou's party structure, and the Senrian Republican Armed Forces; and an opposition to political and ethnic pluralism. He additionally noted that many of the traits of Southern democracy—particularly nationalism and a non-pluralist republicanism—were "codified" in Imaharism, the guiding ideology of the ruling Aikokutou, in a way they were not in many other Southern democracies. He also noted, though, that Senria seemed to be moving away from this in some areas under Kiyosi Haruna, citing the country's increasing political liberalization, concessions to ethnic minorities, and the reduction of the military's political power.
However, <someone else> in <some other book or paper> considered <some other members>.
At the time of writing The End of Politics, Zorasan had been governed by successive liberal and reformist governments that sought to remove from its political system, many if not all the qualifiers of a southern democracy. In his book, Kavagamu applauded Zorasan as an example of a successful transition from a southern democracy, subject mostly to the will and influence of the military in Zorasan's case, to a nascent liberal pluralistic democracy. By 1999, Zorasan had repealed many of its founding laws that enforced censorship, authoritarianism and deeply exclusionary policies toward its religious and ethnic minorities.
However, six years after writing, Zorasan underwent a period of political upheaval, known as the Tufan, which overthrew the liberal-reformist period and in the 2005 Zorasani general election, saw the return of both authoritarian-nationalist blocs to government and unrestrained military involvement in politics. In 2008, a new constitution was adopted which granted the military unparalelled executive and legislative powers, while new measures aimed at combatting pluralism were also adopted, though democratic elections would continue to provide popular mandates.
In political scientific academia, the term has been sometimes criticised for giving a geographical appellation to something that is not necessarily delimited by region of the world. More often, it has been criticised for typecasting and exoticising democracy in the developing world, with critics pointing to <x> as an Eastern country which could be classified as a southern democracy.
In global politics, the term has also sometimes been employed or disavowed. <stuff about what leaders of southern democracies think about the term>