Does democracy diffuse or strengthen ethnic conflict?

Essay by bluebellsUniversity, Master'sA+, May 2006

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It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

On the surface of the argument, democracy appears to be the evolutionary step above ethnic identity; the existence of a democratic setup (a not-so-unspoken requirement for acceptance within the international community of states) automatically negates any ethnic allegiances and attempts to replace them with a nationalistic identity. However, in countries where democracy is imposed from above (rather than evolving from within) (most colonial states, especially third world nations), democratic and ethnic values are in direct conflict. This paper focuses on their dichotomy and using Pakistan's history as a case study, tries to answer the question: "Does democracy diffuse or strengthen ethnic conflict?"

Before we can understand how democracy affects ethnicity, we need to explore the roots of contemporary democratic institutions, and no one captures the practical vision of institutionalized democracy better than Diamond.

According to him, the bits and pieces that constitute the mosaic for a democratic system are essentially the emergence of new political parties with differentiated agendas, an expansion of civil society, an increase in the assertiveness of legislatures and a movement toward consensus about rules and constitutions . However, democracy is not bound by institutions or the concept of a state. Instead, an ideal democracy is founded on simple, fundamental principles that insist primarily on equality not only in voting, but also on representation as well as citizen control of the agenda. Here the emphasis is on consensus, and in its truest form democracy is a process of all parties agreeing to a compromise decision to each and all of their issues.

Another aspect necessarily associated with democratic rule by many political scientists is that of modernization. It has been contended that democracy is the consequence of...