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This paper analyzes two contrasting cases of democratic consolidation to examine the question of what political factors determine the success or failure of opposition movements that become governments at the time of democracy's inception. In South Africa the bitterly repressive apartheid regime of the mid 20th century was transformed into one of the most successful contemporary democracies, led by the African National Congress (ANC). On the other hand, Egypt’s 2011 revolution produced a stillborn democracy, which while fully transitioned, failed to develop and consolidate effectively under the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite the obvious similarities in political dynamics—democratic opposition movements fronting the process of democratization—these cases are dramatically different in their outcomes, as well as in the paths they took to reach those final destinations.
The literature on what makes for a successful experience with democratic consolidation typically focuses on factors such as the state of the economy, the civil society, and the mode of transition. While all of these lenses can elucidate reasons for the success or failure of a democratizing state to consolidate, in the particular cases of South Africa and Egypt they fail to provide a complete accounting. In this paper I focus on the impact made by the opposition group that takes over during and after the transition, and argue that democratic transformation hinged primarily on the success of the ruling party in transforming itself from opposition group to a formally institutionalized governing party. I will explore the variables that determine the success of that internal transformation, including their leadership, their role in the transition to democracy, and their institutional culture. Through these factors I intend to highlight the independent impact that opposition groups can have on democratic consolidation.
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Thompson, Rachel Hannah, "Lets Get This Party Started: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Opposition Groups in Democratic Consolidation" (2015). Senior Projects Spring 2015. 351.