On SAGE Insight: Why Asia’s Oldest Democracy is Bound to Fail

From Journal of Developing Societies

It is argued that the Philippine “procedural–electoral democracy” is still far from being “consolidated” as in the levels similar to advanced liberal democracies in Northern Europe or North America.

This article provides a general overview of how the defective qualities of democracies can be seen in five focal areas of the Philippine state–society nexus: (a) nature of the elite class (b) electoral and representative politics (c) civil society (d) political economy  (e) internal security.

Upon examining the five key areas of state–society relations in post- 1986 Philippine democracy, the key explanatory factor here is the “pervasively extreme social conflicts” (Dahrendorf, 1958; Jones, 2010) that exists between and among the ruling elites and the oppressed,  as seen in the changing constellations of elite groupings in every presidential regime period. The return of electoral democracy does not necessarily guarantee a truly emancipatory politics, but may instead be one effective way for the elites to consolidate their rule through the state.


Despite having the earliest exposure to electoral democratic practices in the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines remains to be one of the least stable democracies in the Global South. Notwithstanding the return of electoral democracy in 1986 after two decades of authoritarian rule, the Philippine state has yet to consolidate its democratic regime. In view of the emerging literature on post-1986 Philippine politics, this highlights the defective aspects of its contemporary electoral democracy by examining four key features of state–society relations: (a) the nature of the elite class; (b) electoral and representative politics; (c) civil society; (d) political economy; and (e) internal security. This article focuses on the balance of power across various sectors where interests of the state and non-state spheres interact, and to what extent such dynamics reflect the prospects of a stable electoral democracy. Employing an interpretivist analysis with allusion to some demonstrative empirical examples, this article concentrates on the post-1986 Philippine politics. The main theoretical argument here is that a good starting point for a comprehensive empirical analysis of the quality of democracy requires disaggregating and analyzing empirical observations that demonstrate the nature of the balance of interests found in state–society relations.

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Article details

Why Asia’s Oldest Democracy is Bound to Fail

Salvador Santino F. Regilme Jr

Journal of Developing Societies



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