A Case Study Analysing Sweden And Kazakhstan: Democratic Versus Semi-Authoritarian States

Every country in the 21st Century follows a particular ideology in how its government is organized and operates. The large variety of ideologies across the globe appear to reflect a superstructure, a concept within a state based upon its underlying economic system.

Arguably, the two most common ideologies are democracy and semi-authority. Democracy is a form of government that represents its citizens through free elections to speak on behalf of the people. Sweden can be distinguished as a democratic state with its critical political feature: the right to vote fairly. In opposition to democracy is the semi-authoritarian regime, which shares democratic and authoritarian features with a solid central power that limits political freedoms. The state of Kazakhstan can be identified as following the semi-authoritarian model, which reflects the combination of a parliamentary and presidential system amidst heavily declining political freedom. This report will analyze the similarities and differences between the aforementioned democratic and semi-authoritarian states. Although it can be difficult to categorize a country into one specific ideology, since many nations possess features from various ideologies, it is essential to study the critical components within states because it helps analyze why governments make certain political choices.

Sweden is arguably the most democratic state worldwide. The concept itself has been labelled “essentially contested” due to the variety of the different interpretations for the ideology itself by many political analysts. Sweden’s history has determined it has more or less always followed democratic ideals. Evidence of democracy in Sweden dates back as early as the 1st Century during the old Viking era when the governing assembly of Swedish people was given the right to elect their kings. The elections resulted in a monarchy in the 14th Century. The state was officially democratized in 1917 when the first Swedish Social Democratic Left Party came onto the political stage after those following the socialist ideology split themselves from the social democrats, creating an overarching democratic ideology within the government itself.

In analyzing a government as a democracy, three primary forms may be identified: direct, representative, and liberal. Direct democracy makes up an insignificant amount within their government. Still, it is worth mentioning citizens can congregate and discuss collective issues that appear to affect the state’s economic and social development. The Sustainable Sweden Association (SSA) is an example of a non-governmental organization that allows citizens to discuss sustainable development for the economy of Sweden. Representative democracy in Sweden gives citizens the right to fairly elect politicians who will be accountable for speaking on behalf of their personal and communal wishes for the state.

The Swedish government follows the parliamentary system whereby the Prime Minister acts as the head of the state, leading the cabinet to create new laws and dealing directly with the individual ministers. The majority of democracy within Sweden appears to be liberal, allowing fundamental human rights to be protected and the freedom of assembly, property, and religion. This reflects the firmly established constitution that protects minorities. Individual rights are maintained, collectively following a society’s direction.

The strengths of the democracy in Sweden are reflected in the nation’s reputation as one of the most liberal countries in the world, where the state’s protection of human rights is high, social progress is increasing, and the gender gap is minor.

However, some issues do arise within the state’s government. The democratic system within Sweden has often been referred to as the ‘Swedish Model’, which categorizes Sweden by certain qualities and a democratic government separate from any other country. Sweden is thus compared to other states whose governments combine features from many ideologies. The constant search for a balance between individual and collective wants and needs within Sweden has created a movement away from its democratic ideal. Within this movement, an increase in individual citizens’ freedom and autonomy appears to be more prominent.

Such prioritization can create problems within the government. Representative democracy enables citizens to vote for officials they believe will reflect their wants and needs. However, in more recent times in Sweden, there has been evidence of a growing gap between the voters and their elected officials. Voters often switch parties, fail to identify parties, or subsequently do not vote due to their freedom through the implemented ideology of liberal democracy. The democratic government of Sweden can be seen as a form of government in which the people have personal liberty, human rights, and the ability to give input on how the state is run.

Compared to the democracy in Sweden, Kazakhstan follows a semi-authoritarian regime with a central and combined rule over society and the economy. Kazakhstan has not always been a semi-authoritarian state, however. It once followed a completely authoritarian regime under the influence and power of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during World War I. Historically, the authoritarian regime ruled and restricted much of the world due to the Soviet sphere of influence placed on many states within Europe and Asia – including Kazakhstan. It was only up until early 1993 where the semi-authoritarian regime officially came into full force during the first Constitution of Kazakhstan. The Supreme Council of Kazakhstan had adopted this regime by ensuring the state’s freedom, through its independence and self-contained governance, so that any other nation could not influence it.

There appear to be five primary forms of rule within the authoritarian regime instead of only three within the democratic option. However, only the hybrid system makes up Kazakhstan’s rule. This system has recognizable features of liberal democracies, comparatively Sweden, where both states have regular elections. However, the rule of law is weak and complicated. Since Kazakhstan follows a hybrid system, it comprises both parliamentary and presidential systems, meaning that the President is the most influential person in the country, followed by the Prime Minister.

The strong executive power that the directly elected President holds can be reflected through their impact on foreign affairs. They can appoint both pliant Prime Ministers and ministers of the cabinet who are focused on domestic affairs and responsible to the parliament. Because of the dual execution between the President and prime minister, the rule of law is weak. The President can initiate legislation but depends on the legislature, or Prime Minister, to pass these policies into actual laws themselves.

The strength of Kazakhstan’s semi-authoritarian government can be reflected through its stability and organization. Since the President has the authority to make rules, bills can be passed on quickly with the approval of a small number of legislatures but without societal opinion as a whole. Alongside this, the economy makes gains through the minimal amount of money and resources being spent on political campaigns, as evidenced by the assertive outcomes of elections.

A weakness within the semi-authoritarian regime in Kazakhstan is that, unlike the fair and equal elections in Sweden, the President of Kazakhstan can manipulate the polls. Former President Nursultan Nazarbayev had ruled the state for a quarter of a century by increasing the staging of elections. Such framing was aided by the lack of genuine opposition challengers based upon his right to choose the opposing party members. This type of propaganda, which exploits the power of Nazarbayev, reflects the restriction of freedom for the citizens of Kazakhstan and evidences a conservative government – as opposed to the liberal Swedish democratic government. Such a contrast elicit the difference in liberty between the democratic and semi-authoritarian states.

Again, the difficulty in categorizing states lies in the fact that many nations worldwide tend to blend various political features from many different ideologies. Although Sweden is a democratic state ruled by the people, it contains elements of the communist ideology whereby all people are treated equally. Therefore, Sweden could be considered a democratic socialist nation. Comparatively, Kazakhstan originally appeared to follow a strictly authoritarian regime. Later, it adopted democratic features, where its people were gained more freedom after their release from Soviet control during the late nineties, therefore changing their following to the semi-authoritarian regime. Both examples feature an ideological change. Many states tend to replace their original government with another, therefore reviewing the difficulty of categorizing them into only one specific ideology.

Arguably, two of the most commonly followed ideologies in the world are democracy and semi-authority. After this investigation, it can be evaluated that the democratic features of general elections within a freer Sweden can correlate with the same feature within a strictly run Kazakhstan – as do the semi-authoritarian qualities of having a parliamentary system between the two studied states. Although it is fascinating to analyze the impact of one specific ideology within a state, we must be more open-minded that there can be a collection of ideologies influencing each state. Such evolutions may be a leading factor in how states are run and how their policies are applied to society.

Mia Heaphy


Leave a Reply