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The Democratic Entitlement in an Era of Democratic Recession

Amichai Magen

Keywords: Democracy; Governance; Entitlement; Recession; International Law

The global democratic boom, which transformed much of the world's political landscape in the three decades between 1974 and 2004, has also had an indelible impact on international law, most notably in the development of the ‘democratic entitlement’ claim—namely, that in a world increasingly dominated by democracies there exists an emergent enforceable right to democratic governance in international law. But what would become of the democratic entitlement if the boom turned to bust? The question is no longer hypothetical. For a decade now the momentum of world politics has turned increasingly against democracy's champions. While the dramatic gains of the late twentieth century have not been erased, the global democratic wave hit the shoal somewhere around 1999–2000, plateaued between 2000 and 2005, and has since suffered sustained reversals. This article re-examines the democratic entitlement thesis in light of these recent negative trends in democracy's international fortunes. It argues that the right to democratic governance is a layered, and potentially severable, edifice, parts of which now seem to be eroding, but which is unlikely to be entirely undone by a reverse wave of democratic breakdowns and resurgent authoritarianism. The article then examines some of the main implications of the current democratic recession for the right to democratic governance in international law.

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