Delegative democracy

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In political science, delegative democracy is a mode of governance close to Caesarism, Bonapartism or caudillismo with a strong leader in a newly-created otherwise democratic government. The concept arose from Argentinian political scientist Guillermo O'Donnell, who notes that representative democracy as it exists is usually linked solely to highly developed capitalist countries. However, newly installed democracies do not seem to be on a path of becoming fully representative democracies.[1] O'Donnell calls the former delegative democracies, for they are not fully consolidated democracies but may be enduring.

For a representative democracy to exist, there must be an important interaction effect. The successful cases have featured a decisive coalition of broadly supported political leaders who take great care in creating and strengthening democratic political institutions.[1] By contrast, the delegative form is partially democratic, for the president has a free rein to act and justify his or her acts in the name of the people. The president can “govern as he sees fit” even if it does not resemble what he/she promised while running for election. He/she claims to represent the whole nation rather than just a political party, embodying even the Congress and the Judiciary.[2]


Christopher Larkins argues that due to the impact of the 1980's crisis, delegative democracy (in the sense of O'Donnell) originated in Argentina. The economic crisis was used to justify a centralization of executive authority which would begin with Alfonsin's administration and continue with Carlos Saul Menem ascending to the presidency.[3] Larkin's arguments exemplify political outtakes on delegative democracy.

Russian Federation[edit]

Russia's electoral law stipulates that half of all parliamentarians will come from voting on party lists, it aims to encourage the formation of political parties. In order to look for political partners and confront skeptical voters, parties must focus on introducing legislation, public opinion campaigns and political education. The parliamentarians, democratically elected, use their democratic legitimacy to justify authoritarian behavior.[4]


  1. ^ a b O'Donnell, Guillermo (January 1994). "Delegative Democracy". Journal of Democracy. 5 (1): 55–69. doi:10.1353/jod.1994.0010.
  2. ^ O'Donnell, Guillermo (1992). Delegative Democracy?. University of Notre Dame: Kellogg Institute for International Studies.
  3. ^ Larkins, Christopher (1998). "The Judiciary and Delegative Democracy in Argentina". Comparative Politics. 30 (4): 423–442. doi:10.2307/422332. JSTOR 422332.
  4. ^ Kubiček, Paul (1 December 1994). "Delegative democracy in Russia and Ukraine" (PDF). Communist and Post-Communist Studies. 27 (4): 423–441. doi:10.1016/0967-067X(94)90006-X. hdl:2027.42/31158. ISSN 0967-067X.