Religion and the ‘third wave of democracy’

Authored by: Jeffrey Haynes

Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138826991
eBook ISBN: 9781315643922
Adobe ISBN:


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Until fairly recently, there were few democratically elected governments outside Western Europe and North America. Instead, such countries had various kinds of authoritarian regimes – including, military, one-party, no-party and personalist dictatorships. However, during the 1980s and 1990s, the shift from unelected to elected governments was deemed so significant that Huntington (1991) gave it a name: the ‘third wave of democracy’. 1 The third wave was a fundamental, near universal, shift in governance arrangements which occurred between the mid-1970s and early 2000s. As a result, Waylen noted a decade ago, ‘competitive electoral politics is now being conducted in a record number of countries’. 2 A key focus in this regard was to try to explain the varied democratisation outcomes which occurred as a result of the third wave. Many analyses point to the importance primarily of internal factors, although external considerations are also widely noted. My aim in this chapter is to examine interactions between key religious and political actors in the context of the third wave of democracy. I focus upon Turkey, an example of a strongly Muslim country that shifted from authoritarian rule to democratic rule during the third wave, and the role of selected Christian churches in several Sub-Saharan African countries during the same period. My overall purpose is to compare and contrast how ‘Islamic’ and ‘Christian’ actors engaged with democratisation during the third wave in two previously undemocratic contexts: Turkey and Sub-Saharan Africa.

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