Coordinated by Aurelian GIUGĂL

Paradoxes and Principles of Functioning of the Contemporary Political Democracies: Democracies in Transition in the Balkans


South East European University, Macedonia



Abstract: The theoretical debate on democracy for a longer period is one of the most dynamic debates within the political sciences, associated with plenty of controversies and paradoxes in terms of lack of consistent principles of functions of contemporary democracies. Various authors continue to disagree regarding the exact foundations of democratic systems, their ideal principles and optimal outcomes for these systems as a result of functioning and failures of the democracy. The situation then is not a source of paradoxes, but rather it brings in visible the paradoxes of functioning of the contemporary political democracies often associated with camouflages under the flag of democracy and abuses under the umbrella of democratic rhetoric in many political processes around the world. The paradoxes of the frontier line what is allowed and what not in a democracy often serves as a starting point for justification of the abuses and misinterpretation of democratic values by the authorities?! The paper is interested in exploring how closely these various conceptualizations of democracy are related to our intuitive sense of what democracy means, or should mean?! In the second part of the paper, using the methods of case study and functional analyses the paradoxes are considered on the practices of the contemporary democracies for the countries in transition of the Balkans, especially discussing the manifestations of the illiberal democratic tendencies.


Keywords: contemporary political democracies, paradoxes of democracy, conceptions of democracy, illiberal democracy, democracies in transition.




Democracy can be defined in many different ways. This is one reason why so many different kinds of democratic states have existed. It can be an empirical scientific term, referring to the common people’s participation in the political decision-making process, but it can also be a normative ideological concept referring to an ideal political system. In order to make historical and international comparisons possible, the term ‘democracy’ is used here in the empirical scientific sense, referring to the phenomenon by which all eligible members, directly or indirectly, participate in the decision-making process of the society to which they belong.1

The desirability of ‘rule by the people’ (the etymology of democracy) is, according to Nick Hewlett2, now taken for granted by virtually everyone in the Northern Hemisphere and probably by the vast majority in the Southern Hemisphere. Democracy is associated with concepts like modernism, legitimacy, fairness and other positive values. Democracy is a very vague concept. Ralf Dahrendorf developed a concept of citizenship, which he defined as a system of rights and entitlements that embrace the whole of society. Citizenship includes three basic rights: a.) justice and equality, b.) basic political rights; c.) elementary social rights. Democracy means the rule of law and the right of voting and free expression and “the right not to fall below a certain level income, and the right to education.”3

The political systems of the democracies of the end of the XX and early XXI century contain a variety of institutions, forms, manifestations, practices and other aspects. Some of them are parliamentary republics, parliamentary monarchies, presidential republics, or semi-presidential systems that are taking more and more roots as new comparative categories in the political sciences. The contemporary democracies are defined through the representation premises. Firstly at all, these democracies are by vocation representative systems of government that are lead usually by the authorized people.

Democracy means rule by the people or popular power. It combines two Greek words, which already suggest a conceptual complex rather than a crystal clear meaning. Demos refer to a citizen body living in spoils, but it also refers to the lower classes, ‘the mob’. Kratos for its part could mean either power or rule. Regardless of the fact that the majority of Greeks were women and slaves who were not considered to be free citizens at all, even the idea of all citizens introduced the problem of wealth, as highlighted by Aristotle: ‘Whenever men rule by virtue of their wealth, be they few or many, there you have oligarchy; and where the poor rule, there you have democracy.’ 4

No wonder, then, that democracy has always been a controversial and confusing concept. On the other hand, it has inspired much analytical reflection, beginning with the Greek classics and ending with the contemporary reviews5.

An excellent guide for the history of ideas concerning democracy is David HeldThe second edition of his Models of Democracy6 is sub­divided into four classic models and four 20th century models as dis­played in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Variants of democracy



Source: According to Held (1996: 5).


This fairly complex map of models can be condensed into three basic vari­ants of democracy:

  1. 1. direct or participatory democracy based on an active citizen and re­publican government,
  2. 2. liberal or representative democracy based on elected officers pursuing the interests of citizens, and
  3. 3. one-party democracy based on a pyramid structure of delegative rela­tionships.

The third variant is obviously out of fashion after the upheavals of Soviet Communism (although Marxism remains as a vital intellectual resource), and Held’s prospects of democracy today are geared around two emer­ging models: ‘democratic autonomy’ and ‘cosmopolitan democracy’7.

The model of contemporary democracy is often called ‘deliberative dem­ocracy’ and it can be seen as the third main historical stage following the ‘direct’ and ‘representative’ models. The same idea is conveyed by the concept of ‘strong democracy’ elaborated by Benjamin Barber, primarily with a view to the USA but fitting well also to the rest of the Western world. Barber suggests that the civil society should not be seen just as a synonym for the private sector or as syno­nym for community but as a domain between government and market - something that opens up a perspective to ‘strong democratic civil society’ and that can also be called ‘civic repub­licanism’,


“in that it has democratic virtues, encourages the habits and practices of democratic ways of living, and is defined by both publicness and liberty, egalitarianism and voluntarism. It is a model for an ideal democratic civil society: with citizens who are neither mere consumers of government services and right-bearers against government intrusion, on the one hand, nor mere voters and passive watchdogs for whom representative governors are only vestigial accountable, on the other. Rather, its democratic citizens are active, responsible, en­gaged members of groups and communities that, while having differ­ent values and conflicting interests, are devoted to arbitrating those differences by exploring common ground, doing public work, and pursuing common relations.” 8

Barber proposes to make such a civil society real through a number of practical strategies, beginning with ‘enlarging and reinforcing public spaces’ and followed by ‘fostering civic uses of new telecommunications and information technologies, preventing commercialization from de­stroying their civic potentials: specifically, a civic Internet; public access cable television; a check on mass-media advertising (and commercial ex­ploitation of) children’9.

Returning to Held’s contemporary models, his second variant, cosmo­politan democracy is outlined through four areas where the regional and global systems are challenging the formal sovereign authority of demo­cratic nation-states:

  1. 1. the world economy,
  2. 2. international organizations,
  3. 3. international law,
  4. 4. culture and environment10.

The prospects of cosmopolitan democracy are stimulating and offer wel­come substance for the often-shallow concept of globalization. However, this paper focuses on democracy in the more traditional context of a nation state, which still remains the main conceptual domain where media-democracy relationships are being discussed. The same context dominates even The Changing Nature of Democracy11, compiled by the United Nations University, which includes also chapters by Elihu Katz and by John Keane.

According to Nieminen12 the main contemporary models of democracy and the respective types of public sphere include following:

  • Direct democracy - popular public sphere
  • Representative democracy — elite public sphere
  • Deliberative democracy — pluralistic public sphere

In the XXI century of these three approaches of Nieminen, the first one remains as a romantic ideal. The second one de­scribes most of the contemporary reality despite its problematic charac­ter. The third one typically stands for practices that can remedy the defects of contemporary representative democracy.

Actually, this typol­ogy, as useful as it may be in clarifying conceptual differences, does not only serve as an analytical tool but also operates as a normative instru­ment in suggesting what is the latest and best of the variants: the delibera­tive democracy and the pluralistic public sphere.

Such typologies and their perspectives are introduced at the level of models and theories. It is another matter how things are in reality; ob­viously there is a wide gap between everyday practice and theoretical models of democracy. As shown by Nordenstreng13, doctrines are shifting towards more popular and participatory theories, whereas reality is dominated by contrary tendencies with global market forces.

The last few decades has been marked a global revolution in the field of democracy and human rights. The world in the beginning of the XXI century more then ever in its history it has the highest rate of the democratic political systems. Some of the scholars of the political sciences and international relations announced in the last decade of the XX century that this is s democratic revolution and it is reversible and that for the dictators from day to day it will be much difficult to remain in power14.



The concept of democracy is not only open to different interpretations but also problematic because of a gap between what it means in theory and how it is being implemented in practice.

Although democracy has become today — after the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe - perhaps the main frame of reference for political development, its ideals are seldom materialized in everyday life. Rather the contrary: the more central democracy has become as a philosophical and political ideal, the more distant it often seems to be as a practical reality.

Actually, the model of deliberative democracy, and Barber’s concept of strong democracy, can be seen as constructs at­tempting to overcome this contradiction between the theory and prac­tice of democracy.

Several elements make the contemporary democracy to be faced with contradictions. Anthony Giddens refers to it as the paradox of democracy:


“On the one hand, democracy is spreading over the world [...] Yet in the mature democracies, which the rest of the world is supposed to be copying, there is widespread disillusionment with democratic proced­ures. In most Western countries, levels of trust in politicians have dropped over past years. Fewer people turn out to vote than used to, particularly in the US. More and more people say that they are unin­terested in parliamentary politics, especially among the younger gen­eration.” 15

Then we have here issue of the role of the mediators. Public sphere theory finds it difficult to break free from a participatory model of direct democracy. Representation always introduces a potentially distorting element into the communication process between the private citizen and political whole.

The public sphere is conceived as a structure for the aggregation of the opinions of individual private citizens through a public debate to which all have equal access. The ideal model is the Athenian agora. The scale, social complexity, and specialization of the modern world make such a model unrealistic. It has clearly never fitted the actual forms and practices of the democracy.

While we should not overlook reality, we should also observe what the history of ideas tells about our contemporary thinking on democracy. In this respect, it is not difficult to see that after the post-modern turn, ac­companied by a lot of confusion, we are entering a new stage with a re­naissance of Enlightenment. Obviously it is not the same old Enlighten­ment reborn but something new - with democracy closer to citizens and their full participation.


Figure 2. The democratic pyramid



Source: According to Beetham & Boyle (1995: 31).


An instructive synthesis of the contemporary view of what is democracy is provided in a book commissioned by UNESCO from David Beetham and Kevin Boyle. Starting with ‘the twin principles of popular control over collective decision-making and equality of rights in the exercise of that control’16, they present four main com­ponents or building blocks of a functioning democracy:

  1. (1) Free and fair elections,
  2. (2) Open and accountable government,
  3. (3) Civil and political rights,
  4. (4) A democratic or civil society17.


The four compon­ents constitute a pyramid as illustrated in Figure 2. Free and fair elections are the first of the four building blocks in the ‘demo­cratic pyramid’ displayed in Figure 2 above. The strategic importance of elections is often forgotten in Western democracies, where they tend to be routine although they are typically surrounded by conflicts - not the least regarding media access and coverage.

Elections in so-called new democracies have brought the topic back to the agenda, with the media playing a central role. Human rights organizations such as Article 19 have prepared guidelines particularly for elec­tion broadcasting18, and research bodies such as The European Institute for the Media have monitored the performance of media during election campaigns in Central and Eastern Europe19. A particular case was provided by the first post-Apartheid elections in South Africa and the subsequent Truth Commission20.

These materials provide us with both general principles and specific rules about how democracy should perform in connection with elections. There is little doubt about what is required here; the ques­tion is whether the democracy is performed as it supposed to do. In this re­gard it is reassuring to see that observation has become a natural part of the election supervising in new democracies around the world.

The second building block of the ‘democratic pyramid’ is open and ac­countable government, which together with the fourth element - demo­cratic civil society - places special requirements on the media. An open society in this respect means above all diversity and pluralism of media content, both in terms of the variety of topics and voices brought to the public sphere and in terms of the viewpoints and values displayed. And as reminded by Jan van Cuilenburg21, there are at least two different types of diversity regarding media coverage of the socio-political, spec­trum: on the one hand ‘reflective diversity’ whereby the distribution of opinion in the media is more or less the same as within the population at large, and on the other hand ‘open diversity’ whereby media give equal at­tention to all identifiable positions in society. Obviously democratic val­ues speak for the open rather than reflective version of diversity, but in practice this might be difficult for the political majority to tolerate, be­cause it would favor various minority opinions at the expense of the mainstream.

This is an area where a number of practical rules are to be found in the codes of professional ethics. However, more homework is needed to spe­cify how diversity and pluralism should be applied in new democracies. This is not a mission impossible, since there are no obstacles of principle to arrive at quite a detailed and concrete set of guidelines about how to ensure and maximize diversity and pluralism.

A particular aspect of openness is the question of minority rights and tolerance. In general, liberal and democratic tradition has supported ethnic, religious and other minorities, which to­day constitute part and parcel of the human rights doctrine canonized in international instruments beginning with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This overall doctrine respects autonomy of minority groups and places an obligation to national and global majorities to allow the minorities to exist and even supports their exercise of own language, customs, etc. Meanwhile, minorities themselves are supposed to follow the same liberal values, as spelled out in the theory of minority rights by Will Kymlicka22. But what about minorities which do not subscribe to liberal values and which may even pursue op­posing philosophies of intolerance, both regarding their own members and communities at large? This question was concretely faced some years ago in Algeria where democratic elections were aborted when religious fundamen­talist groups seemed to gain majority, and it has recently become a big issue in the European Union where neo-Fascist political parties have gained some popular support as shown in Austria in late 1990s and early 2000s, or extreme right wing parties in supranational parliamentary elections for the European Parliament in 2014 have been achieved a significant progress and increased their political role.

From another side, elections are obligatory precondition for determining one system as a democratic, but however the real and functioning democracy is something more then the simple electoral arithmetic.23 And here lies one of the main paradoxes of the contemporary democracy in terms of criteria and dividing lines regarding the real democracy and a democracy that is names so and in fact it abuses further under democratic umbrella. Especially having in mind that in the XX century there are noted several cases of dictators and autocrats who have been elected in regular ways by their electorates, but in fact they have been all the time applied and maintained dictatorial systems rather then democratic systems, as for example use to be a case with Hitler in Germany, Fujimori in Peru, Aristid in Haiti, Milloshevic in Serbia, etc.

As Collier argues, democratization entails “introducing democratic institutions”24. And not only that, the democratization similar to the liberalization can’t work on its own without a real consolidation of the civil society in a democratic setting having in mind the claim of Gill25 that the consolidation of the civil society would bring a real democracy work as far as it allows to the civil society a right to some degree of control over leaderships.26

Another paradoxical aspect of the democracy in the XX century is not related only to the traditional idea of democracy within states. But, rather, the international pre-eminence of inter-state democracy since the beginning of the XXI century is beginning to flow over into the international order, growing with that the interest for the “global democracy”. In fact, the global democracy is a highly contentious concept in world politics. As Barry Holden recalls, ‘what global democracy is, and to what extent its existence is likely or desirable, are matters about which there is considerable controversy’27.

To provide some context for the conceptual issues for understanding the paradoxes and practices of contemporary democracies, it is necessary as well as to identify the classic conceptualization of democratic consolidation offered by Linz and Stepan. Linz and Stepan describe the consolidation of democracy occurring when an intricate system of institutions, rules, and incentives has become ‘the only game in town’, such that no major political agents question democracy as the best form of government, and there are no alternative routes to assuming power than democratic elections28. The consolidation of democracy refers to society’s acceptance of a democratic political system as legitimate. In short, democracy ‘becomes the only game in town’29. In this stage, plural and free media (though perhaps still demonstrating bias towards one particular political party or program) assume greater importance as they communicate the ‘rules of the game’ and assess the on-going performance of democracy.

The real democracy prefers a clear and strong institutional distinction of powers. There is no any guaranty for the political freedom as far as at least two of powers are concentrated into the same person, party of institution, and if three powers (legislative, judiciary and executive) are being controlled by only one group in the society or by one single political party.

Such kind of realities are widely present in many Eastern countries, regions under developments and even in some parts of Europe like is a case with most of the Balkan countries where in a practice there is not a clear division of the three power pillars and that makes obviously paradoxical the stated democratic orientation and system itself of these countries. (Ibid.) Furthermore, the democratic leadership is based on the majority principle, but this principle is established into the relation with the minority within the contemporary political democracies. In this view, according to Arthur Schlesinger, the opposition presents the essence of democracy.30Then, the rule of law, freedom of expression and independent judicial system are as well some of the main preconditions for the contemporary functioning political democracies. Again, many annual global reports and the European Commission’s annual progress reports for instance highlight the problems of most of the Balkan countries (Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo) in these fields. These are typical cases of the paradoxes of the democratic systems.




As far as there is no standard description of the democracy and as far as the notion is used in various ways (even sometimes in quite contradictory way), the authorities in many countries in transition or in countries with not yet consolidated democracy attempts to use this vacuum and interpret it as a form of flexibility for covering their failures in introducing democratic ideals and under such confusion reshape the democratic values based on their political needs and rhetoric. Today with the notion democracy we pretend to define the entire civilization in some regions with more advanced democratic values and in some with rhetoric and determination only, but still with a commitment to the ideals of the democracy. The fall of Berlin wall in 1989 that marked the fall of the communist system as well in Central and East Europe, it was clear that the democracy has been triumphed finally. But, this assumption is more symbolical and especially in a geopolitical aspect may be correct having in mind that the border line between the democratic world and non-democratic world it has been removed. However, not in other context, having in mind that the battle for democratic standards and values still have to be conducted in the other continents out of Europe in essence. Not all the countries that theoretically support the democracy as a form of governance in a declarative way necessary respect the democratic principles and take care about functioning of the democratic practices. Even in the south-east part of the Europe, in each of the Balkan countries, the concepts on democracy are still open not only in terms of the various interpretations, but as well as these are often quite problematic because of the vacuum space between that what do we understand with the democracy in theory and how it is applied in practice, and furthermore to get things complicated further it comes to the question what kind of democracy is working and what kind that it has been attempted, stated and supposed to work in fact it may not work in practice. Again that is a typical case with most of the countries of Balkans with clear stated liberal democratic orientations and in a practice with the contrary approaches- absence of functioning the elementary democratic values and even traces and elements of the ways how function the illiberal democracies in fact.31 According to Fareed Zakaria, this democratic vacuum and deficit comes out from electoral regimes and new democracies.32 The case of the new democracies in transition in the Balkans proves in fact that democracies could be illiberal as well regardless that their state or aspire the model of the liberal democracy. These arguments and presence of the illiberal democratic elements even in the Balkans strengthen the thesis of Zakaria for the rise of the illiberal democracies.

In the countries of the Balkans, the establishment of democracy and its not realistic functioning though in the first and second decade of the XXI century remain still a serious concern even more then two decades since the prolonged transition started and getting complicated. Although that for some of the countries the reforms and the aspired path for the integration into the European Union (EU) may look as an additional complication to the democratization process due to the timing overlapping, nevertheless in no any moment these two processes should not be seen as overlapping or processes that could challenge each other, but rather as two supplementary processes. 33

In his book Transition to Demoracy (that is estimated to be the first comprehensive study of the transition to democracy in Eastern Europe which includes the processes in party-formation, political culture-building, institution-building and economic transformation, and to differentiate between areas and countries) Klaus von Beyme testing the theories of transformation to democracy developed in former transitions, such as 1919, 1945 and the 1970s in the case of Eastern Europe, was right when he announced the model of “Anocracy”- a mixture between democracy and authoritarian regimes, likely to develop in many countries34. But, ironically, his model happened to be more reliable in the case of the South East Europe rather than other former socialist/communist countries. This can be argument by two indicators at least. First the transition is taking much longer in the case of the former; and seconds the latter much quicker and in more effective way surpassed the reforms and met the criteria for the European Union accession.

In his book Democracy and its critics (1989), Robert Dahl reaffirms the democratic process “as the most reliable means for protecting and advancing the good and interests of all the persons subject to collective decisions”35. But, despite his conviction that democracy is the best available means of collective decision-making, Dahl never claims that implementing democratic ideals is easy. An elementary criticism often leveled against democracy is that in practice it can lead to unjust outcomes, especially when a majority deprives a minority of its substantive rights or inter­ests. Dahl responds to this objection first by emphasizing that the democratic process itself requires the protection of many fundamental rights and interests, either as integral to the democratic process or as external to the democratic pro­cess but still necessary for its effective operation (such as a broad distribution of a minimum of economic and political resources)36. And perhaps the work of Pontuso and Havel37 is quite useful as a lesson for the countries of the Balkans with the delayed transition when they point out that the democracy always is supposed to be a matter of an agreement and consensus which basically means a compromise. And in fact the internal stabilization process of these countries and their democratic consolidation depends a lot on learning the ultimate goal for introducing the compromise as a value category in their internal reformation process.

Following the case of the democracies of the Eastern and Central Europe while they transited from a communism to a democracy in a successful way, the required reforms for the EU integration and the path of the EU integration itself in similar way for the case of the Balkan countries (that are still not integrated in the EU as an indicator for the level of the democratization process) should present a strong catalyst in one side for the process of institutional reforms, stabilization of the political systems and completing of the transition, and from another side a catalyst for establishing a functioning and sustainable democracy. Unfortunately, this usual model of democratic transition and consolidation that showed to be applicable in terms of the pretended EU liberal democratic systems, are not properly used by most of the Balkan countries, but rather in a paradoxical and contradictory way are being pretended to be used under the service of the daily politics, party discourses, nationalistic rhetoric and pre-electoral marketing and all that generates further complications to the paradoxical democratic consolidation and confusions to the pretended democratic conceptions for these societies.

Differ to the cases of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe that belonged to the former communist block and went through a successful phase of transition to democracy and EU integration (as an attempted model of the liberal democracies) in the case of the Balkan countries there are evident controversial practices in terms of a wish and commitment of the political elites for the EU integration reformation process and from another side obvious practices of neglecting the democratic consolidation of their countries. Often the EU integration reforming process as required priority is used as an umbrella for justifying of the political elites for stopping the democratic clock through skipping the further building of the democracy and with the misinterpretations of democratic values by the authorities for their political goals.

Apart of the integration criteria that are required in an explicit way by the EU and NATO, during the process of integration, most of the Balkan countries are not realizing that there are many other additional elements required for completing their transitions, that are not stated for the integration process, but that are understood by the democratic consolidation requirements. These are requirements that traditionally are found in the heart of the European Union liberal conception of democracy and that are often not stated in explicit way.38

There is no doubt that the issue of the level of the liberal democracy historically it has been a controversial and quite confuse. Under a flux of statements coming almost by each state in the world, society, by many collectivities and many individuals for being democratic or pro-democratic, it is quite complicated in the beginning of the XXI century to identify what is a democratic and what not; who is a democrat/ democracy and who not?! And this confusion obviously may be manipulated and abused by many regimes, but typically this is a case with those countries in transition like showed the phenomenon with the most of Balkan countries. And for an additional confusion usually contribute further the absence of the identification and the presence of the contradictory dichotomies regarding the historical dilemma what do we mean with democracy within the following contradictory conceptions: a democracy as rule of the majority vs. democracy about the individual rights; a democracy of limited government vs. democracy of the national sovereignty; private ownership vs. societal ownership; democracy of participation vs. democracy of representation; the collectivity vs. the individuality; socialism vs. capitalism, etc.

Most of the countries of the world pretend to be democratic, claiming that they are established democracy referring to one of these points of the contradictory dichotomies. Having in mind the flexibility and confusion on clear conceptions of democracy, it is often left a space for the political authorities and certain regimes to play with words or referring in abusive way to their realistic commitments to the democracy.39

The case of the post-communist democracies in transition of the Balkans apart that fits to the argumentation of the Zakaria40 for the rise of illiberal democracy and that the democracies may be in practice illiberal despite their pretending claim for being liberal democracies; at the same time these countries aggregate furthermore the rift of the main dilemma regarding the validity of connotation of Zakaria and debates that followed after him about the issue whether the course and actions of the illiberal democracies of many democratic governments should create a personification for a growth of the illiberal democracy of their political system as well, or it applies only in terms of the illiberal political behavior of these governments?!

The dilemma seems too remain still without an universal answer all around the world, although many facts go in the favor of the systematic abuses of the democracy in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and especially with many former communist countries in the Eastern and Central Asia that used to belong before to the USSSR. At the same time, many practices like are the cases of the Balkan countries go against the idea for any kind of generalization as far as the illiberal democracy mainly is linked to the illiberal approaches and practices of certain governments rather then the democratic system, which is notable especially when certain government structure are being replaced.

The discussion on the ways of the functioning of the democracies in transition in the Balkans always should take into the consideration that most of them are multiethnic societies that are far from integrated and especially should take into consideration the persistence of ethnic parties. Therefore, understanding the ethnic politics in the Balkans is important for understanding the functions of the contemporary political democracies in the region. In the case of the Balkan countries, as a result of their multi-ethnic composition of the population, or as a result eventually of the ethnic management forms coming from peaceful agreements that followed the dissolution of former socialist Yugoslavia, the ethnic component in relation to democracy from one side it is considered to be the last guardian of the liberal democracy at the last stage, but from another side it may be considered that it complicates furthermore the contradictory democratic conceptions and creates further confusion eventually when it comes to the issue what kind of forms of the democracy are more proper for these kinds of democracies that already have traces of the illiberal democracy. When an ethnic group is in power it may attempt to marginalize the other ethnic groups. That is still a case with some of the Balkan countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia as well. The efforts for the democratic consolidation in these multiethnic countries depend a lot on providing the political stability of the political systems that are in most cases based and depend on its main pillar of the inter-ethnic relations. Following the peaceful agreements in these countries (Dayton Agreement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ohrid Framework Agreement in Macedonia and Ahtisaari package in Kosovo) certain power-sharing models that are launched to provide a sustainable functioning link of the ethnicity, democracy and stability still remain unclear if these forms of peaceful management of the human rights pretends the ethnic democracy, multiethnic democracy or the consociational democracy?! In the three above mentioned countries there are often obvious practices and traces of each three of these forms of these democracies but not of these types of democracy, but rather it is a mix of them and some forms of liberal and illiberal democracy.

Although they use some power-sharing mechanisms, both on the formal/ legalistic level, and on political level, however, the multiethnic countries of the Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo) are not considered yet functioning multiethnic democracy or fully-fledged consociational democracies. The priority of the multiethnic democracy should be the functioning of the ethnic balance with no majorization or discriminatory policies both in national and local level. In the consociational approach, democracy means “government by elite cartel designed to turn democracy with a fragmented political culture into a stable democracy.” The four crucial characteristics of consociational democracy are: grand coalition, segmental autonomy, proportionality, and mutual veto41. The main claim of the consociationalism is that elite co-operation can successfully overcome the flaws of traditional decision-making by majority, while the elites look for to accommodate political conflicts through compromise or harmonious agreement.

Under these circumstances, the compromise is often regarded as impossible choice in each of the multiethnic countries of the Balkans and that makes the democratic practices from another side to be associated with illiberal democratic premises. Nevertheless, this aspect not always is sufficient to make such a generalization if the liberal democracy is functioning, or it is taking eventually the form of the illiberal democracy in the countries with ethnic democracy as it is a case with the Balkan multicultural countries, or in the countries with cultural divisions as it is a case with some African countries.

In these regions (not as a result of the geography, but rather as a result mainly of the past, history of political system and political culture), the right for voting to people is showed to be a subjective right. The right for vote can’t be separated from the overall electoral process and it can’t be considered as a single segment of the democracy, but firstly at all it should be percept as well within the framework of the rule of law, non-discrimination and accountability of the government to all communities of the society.42 It is a correct the approach in the political theory that goes behind the basic demands for the liberal democratic system that pretends to see the organizing the elections that doesn’t guarantee any sufficient democratic or liberal turnout, but at the same it is as well correct the lesson of the multiethnic Balkan countries’ failures and practices that suggest that one state can’t be treated as a liberal and democratic whatever electoral rights and criteria are met as far as the process would not allow the full and rights for voting to everyone, or as far as the free voting is not ensured for all the groups in the equal way by the state apparatus when it come to abuses of the voting process within the non-majority communities and the major communities enjoying the control of state apparatuses would not prevent and stop these electoral phenomena.

While from one side the system would not be considered as a liberal as far as the individuals are not guaranteed to the free expression of the will through the electoral process, from another side it is of the same relevance to recall that the citizens freedoms are obligatory prerequisites for the political freedoms and democratic values in the contemporary political democracies.



The democracy remains a matter of discussions every year all around the world. That is partly as a result of the development of the society and changes that undergo the political systems in various regions of the world, partly as a result of the need for resolving democracy under these changes, but as well as partly as a result of the problems to the elementary functioning of the democracy. This is not a source then to the paradoxes following democracy, but rather this situation only brings up the paradoxes to functioning of contemporary democracy associated with contradictions in conceptions of democracy and at the same time with the camouflages of institutions and authorities on behalf of the democracy. Finally, the paradoxes that follow the contemporary concepts of democracy seem that are generated from the vacuum space created between the meaning of the democracy in theory and its application and failures in practice.

There are many ways of conceptualizing democracy, even to the extent of confusion when it comes to the question what is considered to be democratic and what not, depending on the type of democracy and history of the political system of certain regions?! The comparative approach shows that various conceptions of democracy like those of electoral, liberal, majoritarian, consensus, participatory, deliberative, and egalitarian democracy apart that differ in controversial way from each other in various regions, however in paradoxical way their misinterpretation and abuses on behalf of democracy by the local authorities makes each of these types to have various functions and outcome in different regions.

The contradictory conceptions of the contemporary democracies are typical in case of the democracies in several countries of the Balkans characterized with illiberal forms of practicing democracy, and followed by plenty of confusions in misinterpretations of democratic values by the authorities in the process of the democratization, that are based mainly on the assumptions of the legal legitimacy but still under questionable dimension of the moral legitimacy of elections, then accompanied with the phenomena of quasi-democratic policy decision-making and often with a lack of progress in reflecting the multi-ethnic realities in state-building.

In fact, the election present elementary precondition for determining the system whether it is democratic or not, but however the real and functioning democracy is something then a simple electoral arithmetic?! Obviously, in the history of the civilization and democracy there are plenty of dictators and other forms of oppressors that may be considered to be elected in regular way by their electorates, but in fact they have been applied a dictatorial and non-democratic system.




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1 Here the term democracy is not used for an ideology or a political goal. According to Raymond Aron, the contemporary political democracies are those systems attributed with the constitutional organizations of a quite competition for leading the state power (Aron, 1993). Then according ot this logics the democratic competition imply that the one tha lose in a certain competition not neccassry lose everythin, but however one that wins a power doesn’t mean to win it forever.

2 Nick HEWLETT, “Democracy: Liberal and direct”, in G. BROWNING, A. HALCLI, and F. WEBSTER (eds.), Understanding contemporary society: Theories of the present, SAGE Publications, London, 2000, p. 165.

3 Ralf DAHRENDORF, Reflections on the revolutions in Europe, Random House, New York, 1990, p. 3.

4 In Anthony ARBLASTER, Democracy, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1994, pp. 13-14.

5 E.g. Georg SØRENSEN, Democracy and Democratization: Processes and Prospects in a Changing World, West-view Press, Boulder, 1998.

6 David HELD, Models of Democracy, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1996.

7 Ibidem, pp. 274-360.

8 Benjamin R. BARBER, A Place for Us: How to Make Society Civil and Democracy Strong, Hill and Wang, New York, 1998, pp. 36-37.

9 Ibidem, p. 75.

10 David HELD, Models of…cit., pp. 341-351.

11 Takashi INOGUCHI, Edward NEWMAN, John Keane, (eds.) The Changing Nature of Democracy, United Nations University Press, Tokyo/New York/Paris, 1998.

12 Hannu NIEMINEN, “Media ja demokratia: Kohti piuraiisrista julkisuutta? [Media and democracy: Towards a pluralistic public sphere?]”, in U. KIVIKURU and R. KUNELIUS (eds.), Viestinndn Ja’ljilld [Tracing Communication], Wsoy, Helsinki, 1998, pp. 275-299.

13 Kaarle, NORDENSTRENG, “The citizen moves from the audience to the arena”, Nordicom Review, Vol. 18, No. 2 , 1997, pp. 13-20.

14 E.g. Samuel HUNTINGTON, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1991.

15 Anthony GIDDENS, “Democracy”, The Reith Lectures on the bbc World Service, 8th May 1999, p. 3.

16 D. BEETHAM and K. BOYLE, Introducing Democracy: So Questions and Answers, Polity Press Cambridge, 1995, 1.

17 Ibidem, pp. 30-33.

18 Helen DARBISHIRE, “Media and the electoral process”, Media and Democracy, Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg, 1998, pp. 79-102.

19 See on this: André LANGE, (ed.) Developments in digital television in the European Union, European Audiovisual Observatory, CoE, Strasbourg, 4 December 1999.

20 John van ZYL, Lara KANTOR, “Monitoring the South African media: The shift from Apartheid propaganda to the Truth Commission”, in K. NORDENSTRENG and M. GRIFFIN (eds.), International Media Monitoring, Hampton Press, Cresskill, NJ, 1999, pp. 407-426.

21 Jan van CUILENBURG, “Diversity revisited: Towards a critical rational model of media diversity”, K. BRANTS, J. HERMES and L. van ZOONEN (eds.), The Media in Question. Popular Cultures and Public Interests, Sage, London, 1998, pp. 38-49.

22 Will KYMLICKA, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995.

23 Veton LATIFI, Concepts of democracy, Institute for democracy and development, Skopje, 2009, 10.

24 Ruth B. COLLIER, Paths Toward Democracy: Working Class and Elites in Western Europe and South America, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1999, p. 24.

25 Graeme GILL, The Dynamics of Democratization, Macmillan Press Ltd, London, 2000, p. 119.

26 In fact in a real democracy, civil society is characterized by autonomous groups that are allowed by the state to organize and articulate their interests; a public sphere in which this articulation and discussion can occur. (Gill, 2000:59)

27 Barry HOLDEN (ed.), Global Democracy: Key Debates, Routledge, London 2000, p. 1.

28 See on this: Juan J. LINZ, and Alfred STEPAN, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America and Post-Communist Europe, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1996.

29 Adam PRZEWORSKI, Democracy and the Market. Political and Economic Reforms in Eastern Europe and Latin America, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1991, 26.

30 Arthur M. SCHLESINGER, 1000 Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, Houghton Mifflin, New York, 2002.

31 According to Zakaria, at the time (1997) when he coined the notion, the spectrum of illiberal democracy, ranged from modest offenders like Argentina to near-tyrannies like Kazakstan and Belarus, and Bangladesh in between. What he really meant with the “illiberal democracy” was a spectrum of countries that usually are having rarely as free and fair elections as in the West, but in meanwhile they do reflect the reality of popular participation in politics and support for those elected.

32 Fareed ZAKARIA, “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 76, No. 6, Nov/Dec 1997, p. 22.

33 Veton LATIFI, “The process of the multi-ethnic state building and the political reform process for the EU integration: The complementary and supplementary dimensions”, AARMS, International Relations, Budapest, Vol. 10, No. 2, December 2011, p. 237.

34 See on this: Klaus von BEYME, Transition to Democracy in Eastern Europe, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1996.

35 Robert A. DAHL, Democracy and Its Critics, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1989, p. 322.

36 Ibidem, pp. 175-76.

37 James PONTUSO, and Vaclav HAVEL, Civic Responsibility in the Postmodern Age, Rowman & Littlefield, New York, 2004.


38 Veton LATIFI, “The process of…cit.”, pp. 240-241.

39 Veton LATIFI, Concepts of…cit., p. 12.

40 Fareed ZAKARIA, “The Rise of Illiberal…cit.”, p. 22.

41 See on this: Arend LIJPHART, Democracy in Plural Societies, Yale University Press, Yale, 1977.

42 Veton LATIFI, Concepts of…cit., p. 50.