How Iran could democratize




Damiano, Steven Tabak

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In this report, I apply modernization and political institution-based theories of democracy to the Islamic Republic of Iran to look at the conditions under which Iran could transition from authoritarian rule to democratic rule. I provide an overview of the unique features of democracy and argue that democracies have a better track record than authoritarian regimes in refraining from the use of violence against their citizens and avoiding disastrous economic policies, two areas where the Islamic Republic has a poor track record. I then provide an overview of theories that explain the most likely way Iran could democratize and theories that explain why Iran has persisted as an authoritarian regime. I argue that democracy results from the development of a strong private sector in which economic groups are independent from the state. I go on to provide an in-depth look at how the Iranian government has persisted as an authoritarian regime by thwarting the development of private sector growth and redistributing oil resources to the population. I further explain how President Rouhani's attempt to rescue Iran from the economic crisis created by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could lead Iran to democratize in the medium-term future by developing a strong private sector. I conclude by summarizing my findings and showing what the implications of a democratic versus an authoritarian Iran would be.



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