Institutional Subsystems and the Survival of Democracy: Do Political and Civil Society Matter?
How do two central institutional subsystems of democracy – party systems and civil society – affect the persistence of democratic regimes? Despite the ability of each of these institutions to provide sources of countervailing power that make politicians accountable and thus responsive, distributionist accounts of democratic breakdown provide few insights on how such institutions may encourage parties to reach accommodation. We argue that these institutions provide credible threats against anti-system activities that would otherwise threaten the democratic compromise. We test our argument with newly available data from the Varieties of Democracy (VDEM) project by analyzing all episodes of democratic breakdown from 1900-2001. Using a split population event history estimator, we find evidence that these institutions not only forestall the timing of breakdowns among transitional democracies but also that a strong party system is critical to setting democratic regimes on the path of consolidation.