Looking for a specific definition of 'established democracy'

All right. I’ll keep it simple:

Back in the days when I studied political science, I remember reading an academic definition of what an ‘established democracy’ is. According to this definition, an established democracy is a country in which a party/leader has been voted in democratically, and then voted out in a further election. So basically, there have to be at least two elections with contrasting outcomes for a democracy to be considered stable.

I don’t want to start a big debate here, I’m just wondering if someone knows where that definition came from. Or maybe if the definition has a name? I’ve tried googling for it, but haven’t found anything.


“Voted in democratically” is a much slipperier definition. You have to get over that hurdle, first, before you can go on the second election test.

I could see problems with that in the real world. Namibia has essentially had one-party rule since independence, but free elections are held (there are no issues with voter fraud, other parties are allowed to run without hindrance, leaders of other parties are not suppressed). SWAPO gained independence for the country, so everyone continues to vote for them 24 years later (75% of the vote is commong. When a president steps down, the party chooses his successor to run, and that’s who wins the election.

I think most would consider it an established democracy, but they don’t fit the criteria.

Singapore is kinda the same way, with the same party commanding a large majority of its parliament in every election since their independence. Would they be considered undemocratic under this definition? Seems a bit unfair.

Most likely, the definition you learned in school came from the teacher or from the author of the book you were using. Definitions of any concept are in the hands of the writer.

Actually, I don’t think Singapore is generally considered to be a democratic country. In fact, corruption researchers have been studying Singapore for quite some time, because it challenges the rule that 'non-democratic country = corrupt country".

But anyway, I’ve found that the concept I was looking for is called the “two election rule” in political science circles. Still don’t know who came up with it, but at least I know that it’s an established concept. Thanks anyway!

It’s considered significant in Irish history at least.

The 1932 election led to the first change of government in the Irish Free State. After 10 years in power, the defeated government stepped down and peacefully handed over power to their former Civil War enemies. This was considered a key test of the robustness of democracy in Ireland (at a time when democracies were giving way to dictatorship all over Europe).