Monday, February 14, 2011

Political transitions in Chile and Egypt

The academic study of political transitions was huge in the 1980s and 1990s, focusing largely on Latin America.  It may well get a new boost because of the Middle East.  In fact, the White House is reaching out to academia to better understand the Egyptian transition.  From the Washington Post:

The White House focus has been on revolutions against U.S.-backed dictatorships, including the 1986 popular revolt against Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, the Chilean transition from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet to democracy in 1990, and the 1998 uprising in Indonesia that drove out President Suharto. Officials have also looked to Serbia and Poland for lessons.

I assume they will not make the mistake of labeling Chile a "revolution."  It was a pacted transition that got going when Pinochet lost a referendum on whether he should stay in office.  He did leave power, but in a position of strength, even remaining commander in chief of the army.  In that sense, the Chilean transition has little to say to Egypt.

As I mentioned in passing in a previous post, Chile is more relevant for understanding how to deal with a very strong military in a democratic context.  For a 2006 book chapter on Chilean civil-military relations, I used the title "Inching Toward Democracy" and that may be the same for Egypt.


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