Lijphart’s claim that power-sharing spurs democratization in divided societies has strongly influenced ‘institutional engineering’ and is widely accepted among scholars despite the fact that empirical tests of its merits remain rare. This article revisits the democratic effect of power-sharing, arguing that it has two antagonist faces. On the positive side, it provides guarantees of inclusion to political elites, allowing them to commit to democratic rules. On the negative side, it also has an illiberal face, entailing limits on competition and individual rights. In this article, these contrary characteristics are traced back to two institutional types of power-sharing: a more flexible and open, liberal, type and a more rigid, corporate one. Using a novel dataset on power-sharing rules for 138 multi-ethnic countries and the period from 1945 to 2016, their respective democratic merits are tested. Conforming to theoretical expectations, the findings indicate that only liberal forms of power-sharing exhibit strong positive effects on democracy while corporate forms exert mixed or even negative ones. These findings are robust to a series of alternate model specifications and operationalizations as well as to instrumental variable approaches. In conclusion, the article indicates only a partial democratic effect of power-sharing, limited to its liberal subtype.
This was originally published on SAGE Publications Ltd: Journal of Peace Research: Table of Contents.