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A nation that is constantly having political coups or revolutions or civil wars would be said to have very low political stability, since there would be very low levels of respect for the existing political order, constitution, and government institutions by key political players like politicians, judges, and army officers. One could not take it for granted that, say, the president would be in power (or perhaps even alive) within a year, regardless of how long he was supposed to rule, simply because the political culture would be so chaotic and disrespectful basically any assumption, custom, or convention would have a high likelihood of being ignored or undermined for any number of reasons.
High political stability in any nation would be one where politics was extremely predictable. For example, an extremely oppressive totalitarian dictatorship that had been ruled by the same family for ten generations. There’d be no question about who was running the show, or who would be running the show in the future, or whose orders everyone was going to obey in a system like that. But a country that’s been a safe and peaceful democracy for more than a century — like say the United States, Canada, or Sweden — would be very stable as well, since their history would help foster enormous public reverence for respecting the traditions of elections and resolving political disputes within the well-understood rules and precedences of the constitution.
Totalitarian governments are probably the most stable, followed by established democracies, then mid-to-long term dictatorships, then countries that have only recently embraced either democracy or dictatorship, then so-called “failed states” that have been wracked by years of internal political violence or severe economic/natural disaster. But every government has the seeds of some instability. Sometimes a totalitarian dictatorship doesn’t have a clear succession plan. Sometimes a long established democracy is confronted with a “constitutional crisis” that introduces a problem for which there is no understood tradition for addressing. And sometimes nations have their stability threatened by other countries who hope provoking war could help address their own stability deficit.
Originally published on Quora.com by J.J. McCullough
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