Semi-authoritarianism and democracy in Sri Lanka, 2004–2015


  • Nayomi Field Ohio University


This four-part exploratory essay examines the nature of the state and democracy in Sri Lanka between 2004 and 2015 through the lens of four issues central to the discipline of comparative politics: state formation; economic growth and political development; derailment of democracy; and democratic transition. Section one explores whether the insights found in English-language scholarship about the state and state building hold relevance for the nature of the state in Sri Lanka between 2004 and 2015. The second section inquires into the relationship between economic growth and political development in Sri Lanka. Section three considers the ways in which democracy was compromised during the reign of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime. Lastly, the fourth section investigates whether the 2015 democratic transition from Mahinda Rajapaksa to Maithripala Sirisena was an elite- or mass-driven process.


Barry, E. (2015), Groundswell chooses democracy in Sri Lanka, Accessed at on 18 February 2015

Bellin, R. E. (2012), ‘A modest transformation: Political change in the Arab world after the Arab spring’, in C. Henry., & J. H. Jang (eds.), The Arab Spring: Will it Lead to Democratic Transitions?, London: Palgrave and MacMillan: ch. 3.

Berman, S. (2013), The promise of the Arab spring: in political development, no gain without pain, Foreign Affairs: 1–6, January-February.

Bermeo, N. (1997), ‘Myths of moderation: Confrontation and conflict during democratic transitions’, Comparative Politics, 29 (3): 305–322.

Devotta, N. (2009), ‘Sri Lanka at sixty: A legacy of ethnocentrism and degeneration’, Economic and Political Weekly 44 (5): 46–53.

Fish, S. M. (2005), Democracy derailed in Russia: The failure of open politics, New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hogg, C. L. (2010), ‘Sri Lanka: Concentrating power’, The World Today 66 (4): 29–31.

Huntington, P. S. (1965), ‘Political development and political decay’, World Politics 17 (3): 386–430.

Huntington, P. S. (1991–92), ‘How countries democratize’, Political Science Quarterly 106 (4): 579–616.

Levitsky, S., & Way, L. (2002), ‘The rise of competitive authoritarianism’, Journal of Democracy 13 (2): 51–65.

Limongi, F., & Przeworski, A. (1997), ‘Modernization: Theories and facts’, World Politics, 49 (2): 155–183.

Lipset, M. L. (1959), ‘Some social requisites of democracy: Economic development and political legitimacy’, American Political Science Review 53 (1): 69–105.

O’Donnell, G. & Schmitter, C.P. (2013), Transition from authoritarian rule: Tentative conclusions about uncertain democracies, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Sirisena, M. (2015), News 1st :Maithripala Sirisena addressing the nation. Accessed at on 20 February 2015.

Skocpol, T. (1985), ‘Introduction: Bringing the state back in’, in P. B. Evans, D. Rueschemeyer, & T. Skocpol (eds.), Bringing the state back in, New York: Cambridge University Press: 3–38.

Spencer, J. (2008), ‘A nationalism without politics? The illiberal consequences of liberal instituions in Sri Lanka’, Third World Quarterly 29 (3): 611–629.

Tilly, C. (1985), ‘War making and state making as organized crime’, in P.B. Evans, D. Rueschemeyer, & T. Skocpol (eds.), Bringing the state back in, New York: Cambridge University Press: 510–519.

Treisman, D. (2014), Economic development promotes democracy, but there’s a catch, Accessed at on 20 February 2015.

Uyangoda, J. (2008), ‘Sri Lanka: The state changes face’, Economic and Political Weekly 43 (43): 8–9.

Uyangoda, J. (2009), ‘Sri Lanka sans the LTTE?. Economic and Political Weekly, 44 (7): 8–9.

Uyangoda, J. (2010), ‘From civil war to political uncertanities’, Asian Survey 50 (1): 104–111.

Uyangoda, J. (2015), For a fresh beginning in Sri Lanka. Accessed at on 20 February 2015.

Weber, M. (1958), ‘Politics as a vocation’, in Gerth & Mills (eds. ), From Max Weber: Essays in sociology: 77–128.

Wickramasinghe, N. (2014), ‘Sri Lanka in 2013: Post-war oppressive stability’, Asian Survey 54 (1): 199–205.




How to Cite

Field, N. (2015). Semi-authoritarianism and democracy in Sri Lanka, 2004–2015. The South Asianist Journal, 4(1). Retrieved from