What is Political Instability?

The political instability Can be defined in at least three different ways. A first approach would be to define it as the propensity for a change of regime or government. A second approach would be on the incidence of violence or political revolt on a society, such as demonstrations, murders, etc.

A third point of view would focus on the instability of policies, beyond the instability in regimes. For example, the extent to which core policies, such as property rights, are subject to frequent changes.

Political instability in the streets

According to Max Weber's political theories, political stability depends on the legitimate use that governments make of the public force. Political instability is closely associated with the concept of a failed state, by representing volatility in electoral politics.

If a government can not afford to provide basic services to its population, such as security and the possibility of obtaining food and sustenance, it loses power to enforce the law and then political instability arises.

When a political institution enacts a new law, businesses need to consider the impact it will have on their operations. In some instances, companies will need to create new strategies or processes to comply with initiatives imposed through legislation.

Causes of political instability

Political instability may be caused by various factors, including conflicts between rival political parties, insufficient economic resources, or simply geographical proximity to conflicting nations.

It also occurs when a sudden change occurs in a country. These sudden changes may leave the population in doubt about the situation in their country, which can lead to riots. At present, most of the countries with political instability are located in Africa and the Middle East.

These nations share some characteristics, in general their populations feel that their rights are restricted and they are displeased with their circumstances. The leadership of these nations may be responsible for political instability when they cling to power for too long despite opposition.

Indicators of political instability

As there are different definitions for political instability, there are different indicators created to measure the level of political instability in different countries. Some of these indicators have been developed primarily for academic purposes, such as the World Bank governance indicators.

There are some other indicators that have been created to inform international investors about political risks that investment in certain countries implies. Some companies and institutions offer these types of indicators in a professional manner.

The indexes can be classified mainly in two categories, according to how they were developed. On the one hand there are objective indexes, which traditionally collect data on the incidence of certain phenomena (social manifestations, revolutions, murders and others).

On the other hand, are the perception indices, which use the opinions of experts or surveys to carry out evaluations and obtain conclusions about the state of political instability of a country.

Use of indices in the academy

Indices of political instability are used in many empirical studies to compare countries. These studies generally are of two types. In the first type, political instability is the dependent variable, whose variation is explained by other variables. Such studies are traditionally carried out in the discipline of political science.

In this type of study, researchers seek to establish links between inequity and political instability. Some of the first analyzes of this type that were used used political violence indices as the dependent variable.

In other types of studies, political instability is an independent variable. This type of analysis is common in the field of economics, where political instability is related to certain dependent variables such as economic growth or investment.

Pockets of political instability today

In a number of parts of the world, a climate of political instability, caused by various factors, is now being experienced. Increasing conflicts, terrorism and uprisings against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and Africa, are a source of political instability.

Based on findings reported in the latest issue of the Maplecoft Political Risk Atlas, which uses 52 indicators to help companies monitor political conflicts that can affect the business climate in 197 countries, some red lights stand out.

Since 2010, Syria is one of the countries that have deteriorated more in terms of their political stability. Today it occupies the second site, only surpassed by Somalia. Afghanistan, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo complete the first five sites.

Political instability increases as the growth gap between political freedoms and social benefits increases, such as education and access to the internet for young people.

In 2010, before the so-called Arab Spring, Libya, Tunisia, Iran, Syria and Egypt were among the countries with the greatest gap between political freedoms and social benefits.

Some African countries have experienced the greatest increase in the risk of political violence, including terrorism, poor governance and regimes vulnerable to popular uprisings. Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan are listed under the category of"extreme risk". Meanwhile, Kenya and Ethiopia are considered"high risk."

Years after the Arab Spring, more than 60 per cent of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa have experienced a considerable increase in political violence, showing the long-term political risks associated with power-based changes of power .

In the West, the impact of the global financial crisis continues to manifest itself in high levels of unemployment. This phenomenon, combined with government austerity measures, has contributed to the growth of inequality and the decline in living standards.

The political landscape in Europe and the United States has become increasingly fragmented and polarized as populist parties have gained strength as a reaction to growing voter dissatisfaction with traditional political parties and their participation in these phenomena.


  1. Political Instability. Taken from encyclopedia.com.
  2. What is the definition of political stability? Taken from reference.com.
  3. Political instability and global growth. Taken from nber.org.
  4. Political instability in the rise. Taken from edition.cnn.com.

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