A question of fundamental importance for the health and longevity of democratic governance is how the format of institutions may be fashioned to prevent electoral victors from drawing on the resources of the state to perpetuate themselves in power. For the citizens of the world's so-called third-wave democracies, recently emergent from the dark shadow of military government and rule by fiat, this question has established itself as perhaps the core democratic dilemma of the early twenty-first century.
The considerable moment attributed to this question in new democracies arises from the fact that these republics are generally characterized by a significant overlap between the electoral and bureaucratic domains of the polity. This overlap manifests itself in a coalescence of bureaucratic and political careers, dual loyalties to the conflicting missions of state organs and political patrons, and when said loyalties become skewed in favor of the latter, the illicit redirection of public resources into political activity. The consequence of this perverse conflation of political and bureaucratic power is that the bureaucratic apparatus in many developing countries – with much greater potential for good or ill than its counterpart in the industrialized world – often abdicates its role as a catalyst for economic development and social equity.
The potential conflict between the practice of democratic politics and the development of a modern and effective state bureaucracy has long been of great concern to students of political development.