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Building Democratic Institutions


Admission requirements

This is a specialization seminar for students from the IEG track. To ensure quality of teaching, we limit the number of students in it to 35. Students from another track (PM or GM) who would like to take this course an an elective, please note you need to ask the lecturer per e-mail. You may be asked to take another course if the seminar is full.


What kinds of institutions are essential for the building of a stable democracy? Do they need to grow over decades or can they be created in a relatively short period of time through the choices made by elites? What are the choices that democratizing elites are faced with? Can new democratic institutions be designed, and if so what factors might influence their success? What common challenges to
democracy worldwide are emerging today and what answers to these challenges can we find in contemporary debates on the nature of democracy, the relationship between globalization and democracy and democracy and the nation state? These are some of the questions which this course will address.

This course will discuss these questions with the help of various perspectives drawn from theoretical and empirical work on democratization mostly in the post communist countries in Eastern Europe with a recent focus on Ukraine, in the European Union itself and other parts of the world. The course will focus in particular on the practical and theoretical challenges encountered in trying to build democratic institutions, challenges such as multiple transformations and weak states, post conflict democratization, the problem of creating legitimacy in new types of political systems such as the European Union

Learning objectives

Students who have completed this course should be able to:
-understand the major debates in the democratization literature and how these debates affect policy practice and policy advice
-have an awareness of the various schools and approaches to understanding democratization, short and long term perspectives and different social science approaches
-be capable of analyzing recent process of transition to democracy with the help of the comparative and theoretical literature introduced in this course
-have developed the capacity to reflect on the challenges and shortcomings of efforts to build democratic institutions in various regions of the world today
-be able to identify various internet sources and databases that can serve as starting points for empirical research in democratization
-be able to make a critical presentation of a set of different, sometimes contrasting arguments from articles in the democratization literature



Methods of instruction

This course consists of seminar sessions and is compulsory; students who miss two or more sessions without serious reason and prior notification will not be able to complete the course.

Study load

  • total study load: 140 hours of which – contact hours: 3 hours per week, 7 weeks: 21 hours – self-study hours: 10 hours a week, 7 weeks: reading course materials: 4 hours a week; preparing case study assignment and presentation:3 hours a week; 70 hours exam preparation: 49 hours

Method of assessment

Students assessment is based on three different components:
1.Presentations of the week’s literature and a country case study (in teams): 30%
2. Oral exam: 60%
3. Participation, including online discussion forum: 10%

For the course to be completed, both presentation and oral exam grades must receive a passing grade.


Lecturer used blackboard, course site is available a week before the start of the course.

Other course materials/literature

The course uses a selection of articles which will be available via the online library of Leiden University; the list per session will be available through blackboard a week before the course.


Registration for every course and exam in USIS is mandatory. For courses, registration is possible from four weeks up to three days before the start of the course.
For exams, registration is possible from four weeks up to ten days before the date of the examination.


Dr. Antoaneta Dimitrova, e-mail:


This is a specialization course for students following the track International and European governance; students from other tracks may follow it as an elective provided there are enough places available;