P36
The quality of democracy in South Asia: state of the art, prospects and challenges

Convenors:
Siegfried O. Wolf (South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University)
Chair:
Paulo Casaca
Location:
Room 214
Start time:
27 July, 2016 at 14:00
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

This panel will focus on an assessment of the state and the art of democratic processes in South Asia and offers a platform to discuss the political trajectories after a 'super election period'.

Long abstract:

The panel will focus on assessing the state and the art of democratic processes in South Asia; on their respective backslashes and hindrances; as well as factors which can help to entrench democracy. The period under discussion starts with the 2013 General Election in Pakistan and ends with the Sri Lanka's Parliamentary Elections 2015. Pakistan witnessed its first transfer of power between two elected governments, in spite of continuing military power dominance. Bhutan made a crucial step towards democracy in its second national poll. Nepal elected for a second time a constitutional assembly which will try to solve the political-constitutional deadlock. Sri Lanka appeared as a political surprise, heading again towards a democratic track through its Presidential election. Afghanistan Presidential elections were dominated by massive fraud, however, a power-sharing agreement was achieved and increased civil-war was avoided. The Maldives elections were severely flawed where in Bangladesh elections suffered from the boycott of the main opposition party. India, South Asia's most consolidated democracy, observed a smooth shift of executive power. Since the young South Asian states officially gained independence from colonial rule, democratic transitions were hampered namely by entrenched authoritarian traditions the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, communal violence and endemic corruption. The proclamation by some analysts, possibly guided by a minimalistic definition of democracy, of a successful South Asian "new democratic wave" may however overemphasise the technical criteria for holding elections while ignoring the threat of potential return to authoritarian patterns.