Samuel M. Huntington developed the concept of third wave democratization and he started the timeline of the wave with the end of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1974. According to Huntington (1991), third wave democratic transformations take place in five phases: “Emergence of reformers, acquiring power, the failure of liberalization, backward legitimacy, and co-opting opposition.” Many states, such as Turkey, Greece, Indonesia, Nigeria and Spain, are analyzed as third wave democratized states.
Even though history has documented three major waves of democracy, a number of anti-democratic states still exist throughout the world. When we look at the main features of contemporary anti-democratic states, we can recognize that many of them fall into two major categories: communists and Islamists. For example, the anti-democratic states of Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and China are communist nations. Conversely, all Gulf state, Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are Islamic nations. Of course, anti-democratic Christian states also exist, such as post-communist Russia, Venezuela, or Equatorial Guinea. A number of Muslim states have also chosen to establish a democratic regime, such as Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Despite this diversity in political allegiance, at present, communist and Muslim states constitute the biggest share within the anti-democratic system, since they have more social, economic and political effects on the world with their huge populations, economic strength, and military power. In this paper, I will argue that when a majority of communist and Muslim states transform to democratic states, we will see the close of Huntington’s third wave of democratization and the beginning of a fourth wave: the democratization wave of communism-Islamism. To elaborate, new democratization wave will be grounded by anti-democratic Communist and Islamist regimes transformation towards democracy either by indigenous or exogenous actors.
Democratization of Islamic States
In the past year, a number of Islamic nations have seen a revolutionary wave of uprisings, demonstrations, and protests. This Arab Spring could herald an impending wave of democratization. Through the Arab Spring, democratic reformists in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have rebelled against their autocratic leaders and called for the institution of a democratic regime. Tunisia and Egypt have begun to move in the direction of democratization with Libya and, to a lesser extent, Syria is primed to follow. In the past year, Egyptian, Libyan, and Tunisian democratic reformists overthrew their dictatorial leaders to establish democratic governance in their states. If the Arab Spring completes its democratization movement, and if it does not turn into what Iran's Leader Ayatollah Khomeini (2011) called an "Islamic awakening,” or new fundamentalist Islamic regimes, we may soon see confirmation that anti-democratic Muslim states have started to become part of the modern democratic world. When other anti-democratic Muslim states, particularly the states that comprise MENA, start to join the democratization wave, Islamic democratization will be much closer to taking its place in the fourth wave of democratization.
Democratization of Communist States
A number of Islamic nations have already begun to make their move toward becoming democratic states; however, the transformation of communist states into democratic nations may prove to be a much more arduous undertaking. Larry Diamond (2002) defined post-communist Eastern European states involved in the third wave of democratization as “pseudo democracies.” According to Diamond, though these states transformed their regimes from anti-democratic nations; they have established defective democracies that are not yet fully embedded. Wolfgang Merkel (2004) argued that the new democratized states have not established the following features necessary to be defined as embedded democracies: “electoral regimes, political rights, civil rights, horizontal accountability, and effective power to govern.” Furthermore, these new democratized states have not completed Huntington’s (1970) three stages of democratization for one party states, “transformation, consolidation and adaptation.”
China, however, has maintained its anti-democratic stance. Bruce Gilley (2005) provided the following road map to transforming China, currently the biggest communist state, into a democratic nation. According to Gilley, for China to make this transformation, it must experience a “metastatic crisis,” such as an economic crisis, “popular mobilization, violence,” and “ditchism, or reformation by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).” At this point, Gilley contended, the collapse of China would occur.
David Shambaugh (2009) argued that China has learned many lessons from the collapse of Soviet Russia and is striving to avoid the same outcome. “The lesson is clear: Adapt and change or atrophy and die. The CCP has clearly chosen the former option and, at least for the time being, is enjoying ‘authoritarian resilience.” In other words, to survive in its current state, China prefers to strengthen its economic structure rather than making risky political reforms like Gorbachev. To this end, “CCP effectively controls not only the government at all levels but also a wide variety of professional institutions, corporations and enterprises, universities and research institutes, and service organizations. It also controls the military and media”
In conclusion, Muslim and communist states have become a greater part of the anti-democratic world. Their huge populations, strong economies, and strategic geographic positions give them significant power and the rest of the world has taken notice. These states’ transformation toward democracy would be defined as a new wave, or fourth wave democratization. Of course, the transformation of these prolonged anti-democratic regimes would not be easy. I believe that external democratic actors, either international organizations or states, should take a significant role in helping them make this transformation. These actors would work to convince anti-democratic rulers and thereafter people to begin the transformation toward democracy, not only for their own interests but also for those of the entire world. Since, anti-democratic states often display a lack of representation, defective accountability, and the absence of check-balance systems over their rulers. Many of these nations experience high levels of corruption, maldistribution, and restrictions of social, economic and political rights. These states also offer very limited freedom of media, speech and conscience. Accordingly, citizens of these nations are more prone to support efforts to weaken their governments and eventually to overthrow them.
While this rightful, though naïve, intention could give rise to a democratization movement, as can be seen from the situation in Egypt, this opposition could just as easily give birth to new terrorist groups through the misuse of this grievance to further hidden terrorist agendas. For example, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) recruited Kurdish youths under the guise of addressing Kurds’ limited rights and underdeveloped presence in Turkey.
Mass dissatisfaction with rulers also lends itself to hatred toward democratic states, because people often blame outside actors for their undesirable situation. This enmity carries with it the potential to undermine international security. For example, al-Qaida has worked hard to convince citizens of Muslim states that their current hardships are the result of Western imperialism over Muslim states’ resources, and they invite Muslim people to join their terrorist groups to take retribution and reestablish their deserved rights.
In sum, external democratic actors, such international organizations and national states, and indigenous democratic defenders should play a key role in the transformation of anti-democratic regimes into modern democratic states. Otherwise, the anti-democratic states will perceive democratic states as a rival and mostly as an enemy of their interests. The states’ nation, decidedly, would blame developed democratic states for their agony. As an example, Pakistanis blame Western democracies for their economic stagnation, indeed while political corruption disturbs Pakistan’s economy. And, many Pakistanis support al-Qaida attacks against Western world. Accordingly, the goal which is helping anti-democratic states for democratization is not to build new hegemonic colonized areas, but rather to prevent the endangerment of the world’s future. The world needs democratic interest-based corporations across the world to trigger the fourth communist-Islamist democratization wave in order to prevent the emergence of new anti-democratic states and groups like North Korea and al-Qaida.
*Ali Sarihan - Georgetown University - Department of Government
 Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, pp. 127-140, University of Oklahoma Press, 1991
 Wolfgang Merkel, Embedded and Defective Democracies, Democratization, 11:5, pp. 33 — 58, 2004
 Samuel Huntington and Clement H. Moore, Social and Institutional Dynamics in One-Party Systems, p.9, Basic Books, 1970,
 Bruce Gilley, China’s Democratic Future, pp.112-117, Columbia University Press, 2005
 David Shambaugh, China’s Communist Party, pp. 178,Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2009
 Ibid. p. 175
- TURKEYCHP leader urges gov’t not to turn post-coup probe into ‘witch hunt’
- TURKEYUS offered to help on Gülen’s extradition, Turkish FM confirms
- EUROPENo isolationist path for Britain, Johnson insists
- TURKEYSyrian fighters seize half of Manbij from Islamic State
- TURKEYFlights as usual after failed coup attempt, Turkish Airlines chairman says
Most Viewed News