Developing Representative Democracy—10 Factors that Complicate the Immediate Democratization of a Nation

Updated on February 4, 2017

Government by the People for the People


Socio-political change is a long and arduous process. History has demonstrated that the shift from government by autocratic authoritarian rule to government by participative democracy is a complicated affair that takes decades if not generations to work out. This article discusses 10 factors that complicate and hinder the movement towards the democratization of any given nation.

Hindrances to Democracy - A Brief Overview

The 10 factors that can complicate and even hinder the shift from government by the few to government by the many include:

  • The personal pride of the ruler or ruling class
  • The power of the rulers entourage (political supporters)
  • The command and respect of military and police
  • The general education of the people
  • The general welfare of the people
  • The interest level of the people regarding the political process
  • Cultural perspectives of leadership and power
  • The history of self-rule (either on a national, provincial, or local level)
  • Perceived interference from outside meddlers
  • Lack of good models

These 10 factors are not meant to be exhaustive.

The Rulers Perspective of Personal Honor and Power

The first factor complicating the movement from authoritarianism to democratization is the established ruler's perspective of personal honor and power. Many heads of state are megalomaniacs who believe they are smarter than every member of the citizenry. They claim a divine right to rule and count themselves as more than mere mortals. Or, as in the case of some despotic monarchs, the ruler may feel the burden to protect the family fought hard to win or feel insecure and afraid to share power. Their personal sense of honor and power is too strong to share power with the people.

The Relative Power of the Ruler's Entourage

A second factor hindering movement towards representative democracy is the relative power of the current ruler's entourage (or supporters). The current head of state may not be the final authority. He may in fact be only a figurehead, a puppet for a group of named or unnamed supporters. Those supporters may not want to share power with the masses. If an authoritarian despot believes democracy is ultimately the best way to forward for his people and nation, he may be hindered from doing so until he persuades his backers that such a movement would be beneficial to them in both the short and long-run. If this head of state moves ahead to initiate change without the backing of his supporters, he could find himself outside looking in.

The Relative Loyalty of the Military and Police

The relative loyalty of the military and police is a third factor that can complicate socio-political change. In places like, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Egypt, and Syria the state military played significant roles in either protecting the power of the current ruler or forcing the transfer of power. How set are military officials on the current form of government? How loyal are the military and police to the head of state? Is the military prone to be neutral or biased? How much respect does the leader of the opposition party command among the military and police? These are all important questions to consider when attempting to move a society from one form of government to another form.

The Education of the People

The Education level of the people is another factor involved in the development of representative democracy. Thomas Jefferson observed that "an educated citizenry was a vital requisite for survival as a free people." The opportunity to be informed and make informed decisions will be linked to the overall literacy rate of the general populous.

The General Welfare of the People during the Transition Period

A fifth factor that complicates socio-political change from an authoritarian coercive restrictive political landscape to participative free and fair society is the general welfare of the ordinary citizens during the transition period. The two Russian experiments into representative democracy from 1905 to 1917 and 1991 to 2010 resulted in massive corruption and a short-term denigration of already horrid living conditions. Democracy did not deliver on its promises to bring greater welfare to the people. The people themselves became impatient with the process and called for a return to the old ways (even though those ways were bad at best). Moreover, who can blame an able bodied leader who loves his homeland and his people from wanting to wrest back the reins in order to relieve their undue sufferings.

The General Interest Level of the People

A sixth factor that can hinder movement to representative democracy is the general interest level of the general population. The citizens of some countries have lived for centuries as wards of the state. As long as their basic needs are being met, the people are fine with leaving the governing to the rich and powerful. The bottom line is they are comfortable and relatively carefree and complacent with the status quo. They do not want the responsibility of the entire nation resting on their shoulders.

The Lack of a History of Self-Rule

A similar but somewhat different factor that may hinder socio-political change from despotic to government by the people is the lack of a history of self-rule. The people may come to think they want to share power but they do not know all that is involved in the process of governing. For generations they have been oppressed and blocked from the political process and thus lack the knowledge and skills of how to run a locality and or nation. A lack of knowledge and skill can lead to uncertainty and indecision that makes the represented feeling insecure and may embolden those prone to devious action to advantage of others.

The Size of the National Population

The relative population size can be an eighth factor that complicates a decisive shift from authoritarian rule to democratization of a nation. The large the population the more difficult it will be to make the transition in an orderly manner. Obviously, a ruling class governing over a populous of 200,000 from the same ethnic and language group would likely have an easier time making the transition than a country like China with a populous of 1.3 million from 56 ethnic groups that speak over 292 languages or dialects. In order to keep the country together, the governing officials would have to make the changes in small incremental steps which will take much time.

Cultural Perspectives of Leadership and Power

Cultural perspectives of leadership and power is a ninth and very important factor that may hinder a move from rule by one to rule by the many. Cultural comparative studies by Geert Hofstede of IBM and colleagues and Project GLOBE codified sets of cultural dimensions including one dimension labeled "Power Distance." The power distance dimension measures the degree to which members of a given society tolerate separation from their leaders. Some national cultures want strong leaders who are decisive and act on their behalf without full representation. Concerning politics in Southeast Asia, one observer wrote, "In Asia one does not gain power only to give it up four or eight years later."

The Lack of Quality Models around the Globe

The lack of quality models around the globe is the 10th factor that can hinder the move from authoritarian despotic rule to fully developed representative democracy. Yes, there are places around the world that do exemplify the superior benefits of representative government by the people and for the people. However, there are also plenty of bad examples that could give pause to those not yet sure that sharing power is the best path for establishing a free and fair society. Fist fights on the parliamentary floors of South Korea (2010) and Thailand (2010) and gridlock in Washington, D.C. (2013) are only a few of many examples that representative democracy around the world is less than perfect and often inefficient.

Perceived Interference from Outside Nations

One other hindering factor to the shift from autocratic rule to shared rule is perceived interference from the outside. This factor may be related to the first factor regarding the rulers (or ruling classes) personal sense of honor. Those cultures where leaders attempt to maintain a high sense of honor may become less interested in making a change in political structure if there is too much prodding or interference from the outside. These rulers believe they must stand strong before their people and not appear weak and too easily manipulated by other heads of state or diplomatic officials from other nations.

Hindrances to Democracy - Your View

What do you think is the biggest hindrance to changing to representative democracy?

See results

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)