Peaceful transition of power

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Mustafa Abdul Jalil who oversaw the National Transitional Council in Libya, which oversaw a peaceful transfer of power during the interim government following the Libyan Civil War.

A peaceful transition or transfer of power is a concept important to democratic governments, where the leadership of a government peacefully hands over control of government to a newly elected or selected leadership. This may be at times of election or during the transition from a different kind of political regime, e.g. the post-Communist period after the fall of the Soviet Union,[1] or the elections in Libya following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.[2]

In scholarship examining democratization and emerging democracies, study of the successful transitions of power is used to understand the transition to constitutional democracy and the relative stability of that government.[3][4][5][6] A 2014 study concluded that 68 countries had never had a peaceful transition of power due to an election since 1788.[7][1]

The first peaceful transition of power in a country is often treated as an important stage in a government transition towards democracy such as seen in elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[8] Successful transitions during tense political moments such as the Velvet Revolution in Armenia in 2018 are interpreted as signs of improved governance within the country, an important milestone in democratization and functioning civil society.[9] Alternately, challenges in transitioning power peacefully, such as what occurred in elections in Georgia, may harm the international reputation of that country.[10]

Peaceful transitions require a number of strong democratic institutions to pursue such as willingness from opposition parties to serve as a loyal opposition. Transitions by election place power holders in vulnerable positions as not only do they risk potential changes in policy and practice and thus their means of power, but also for political retribution or retaliation.[11] Especially in new democracies, there may be a need to create new institutions to facilitate a peaceful transition. After the Libyan Revolution, the National Transitional Council provided a 10-month period that facilitated the "first peaceful transition of power in Libya's modern history".[2]

President-elect Ronald Reagan is sworn in as president of the United States in a symbolic peaceful transfer of power in 1981.

In a stable institutionalized democracy, a peaceful transition is the expected outcome of an election and a 2014 analysis found that once a country begins peaceful transfers of power, it is very likely to keep doing so.[7][1] A peaceful transition of power is important to the United States presidential transition and institutionalized through symbolic acts like the United States presidential inauguration.[12] However, even this can not be entirely relied upon as there is a risk of "democratic backsliding". In 2020, this concept was questioned by President Donald Trump during his 2020 presidential campaign[13] while other elected officials actively supported the institution and process due to its significance in American democracy.[14]


  1. ^ a b c "Peaceful transitions of power have been rare in modern states, but once the habit has been acquired it sticks". EUROPP. 2014-11-26. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  2. ^ a b "Libya's NTC hands power to newly elected assembly". BBC News. 2012-08-09. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  3. ^ Graham, Emmanuel (July 2017). "The Third Peaceful Transfer of Power and Democratic Consolidation in Ghana" (PDF). Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies. 10 (5): 99–127.
  4. ^ Tamarkin, M. (1979). "From Kenyatta to Moi: The Anatomy of a Peaceful Transition of Power". Africa Today. 26 (3): 21–37. ISSN 0001-9887.
  5. ^ Mangu, Andre Mbata B. (2004-06-01). "DR Congo : the long road from war to peace and challenges for peaceful transition and national reconstruction". Africa Insight. 34 (2_3): 31–38. ISSN 0256-2804.
  6. ^ Ahmed, Jasem Mohamad (2012). "Democracy and the problem of peaceful transfer of power". Journal of Al-Frahedis Arts. 04 (10).
  7. ^ a b Przeworski, Adam (2015-01-01). "Acquiring the Habit of Changing Governments Through Elections". Comparative Political Studies. 48 (1): 101–129. doi:10.1177/0010414014543614. ISSN 0010-4140.
  8. ^ "First peaceful transfer of power possible in the DRC: regional focus - East Africa". Africa Conflict Monitor. 2017 (Feb 2017): 35–39. 2017-02-01. ISSN 2311-6943.
  9. ^ Yayloyan, Diana (2019-02-28). "A Peaceful Transition of Power and Public's Expectations in Armenia". Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey – via Think-Asia.
  10. ^ "Peaceful transfer of political power and its characteristics in Georgia. The Georgian parliamentary elections of 2012". Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  11. ^ Sutter, Daniel (1995). "Settling Old Scores: Potholes along the Transition from Authoritarian Rule". The Journal of Conflict Resolution. 39 (1): 110–128. ISSN 0022-0027.
  12. ^ "Peaceful Transition of Power". National Archives. 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  13. ^ Breuninger, Kevin (2020-09-23). "Trump won't commit to peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  14. ^ News, A. B. C. "Unanimous Senate commits to peaceful transfer of power after Trump refuses". ABC News. Retrieved 2020-09-25.