The study, which will be published soon by the Journal of Conflict Resolution, was conducted by Prof. Tamir Sheafer and Dr. Shaul Shenhav. The researchers measured the "democratic gap" in about 90 democratic and non-democratic countries.
"The democratic gap is the difference between the democratic aspirations of a country's citizens and the level of democracy given to them by the state's institutions," explains Prof. Sheafer.
According to the study's findings, political stability will be in danger only in the case of a "negative democratic gap". In other words, when the citizens' expectations for democracy are unfulfilled, there is a higher chance that the citizens will take a risk and take to the streets in a bid to undermine the regime's stability.
With a "positive democratic gap", which exists when the state's institutions allow a higher level of democracy than the citizens seek, there is no danger to the government's stability.
The research data were collected in 2008 through public opinion polls and objective international indices, which measured the "democratic gap" in a large number of countries and revealed that the popular uprisings which took place recently in Thailand, Iran and Egypt could have been predicted as early as two years ago.
According to the data, civilian coups are expected soon in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Belarus and even China. In Jordan, Algeria and Malaysia, however, the findings point to a "positive democratic gap" and a coup is unlikely.
"In these countries, although they are not characterized by a high level of democratization, the citizens' democratic aspirations are lower, and in such a situation the danger of governmental instability is smaller," says Dr. Shenhav.
The researchers stress, however, that the model's prediction abilities should be treated with caution, as there are many other factors which play an important role in explaining instability, including the regime's response to the attempts to undermine stability, the economic situation and democratization processes which may be led by the government.
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