6 junio, 2024

Political instability: what it is, causes, indicators, foci

What is political instability?

The political instability It is the situation of a country where the government is affected by a set of economic, social or political factors, which have a negative influence on the welfare and development of society. It does not always lead to a change of government, but it always indicates a failed state.

It can also be defined in other ways. A first approach would be to define it as the propensity for a violent regime or government change. A second focus would be on the incidence of violence or political revolt in a society, such as demonstrations, murders, etc.

A third point of view would focus on the instability of policies, beyond the instability of regimes. The degree to which fundamental policies, eg property rights, are subject to frequent change.

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

If a government cannot guarantee basic services to its population, such as security and the possibility of obtaining food and sustenance, it loses the power to apply 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 can be caused by a number of factors, including conflicts between rival political parties, insufficient financial resources, or simple geographic proximity to nations in conflict.

It also occurs when a sudden change occurs in a country. These sudden changes can plunge the population into confusion and dissatisfaction about the situation in their country, which can lead to riots. Currently, most of the nations with political instability are located in Africa and the Middle East. And in recent years, in some Latin American countries.

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


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

There are some other indicators to inform international investors of the political risks that investment in certain countries implies. Some companies and institutions offer these types of indicators professionally.

Indices can be broadly classified into two categories, according to how they were developed. On the one hand, there are objective indices, which traditionally collect data on the incidence of certain phenomena (social demonstrations, revolutions, murders, curbs on freedom of expression, persecution of opponents, and others).

On the other, there 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 in a country.

Use of indices in academia

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

In this type of study, researchers seek to establish links between inequality and political instability. Some of the first analyzes of this type that have been done used indices of political violence 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.

Focus of political instability today

In various parts of the world there is currently a climate of political instability, caused by various factors. Intensifying conflicts, terrorism and uprisings against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, Latin America or Africa are a source of political instability.

Since 2010, Syria is one of the countries that has deteriorated the most in terms of its political stability. Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo follow. In Afghanistan, specifically, the return of the Taliban to power in 2021 has led to a deep political, social and economic crisis.

Political instability increases while the growth gap grows between political freedoms and social benefits, such as education and Internet access for the young population.

In Iran, demonstrations against the mandatory wearing of the hijab for women have shaken (although not enough) the country’s authoritarian regime. Likewise, the protests in Israel against a reform that seeks to weaken the judiciary have put the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in a delicate position.

In Latin America, the assumption of power again by Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil triggered serious protests throughout the country. In Peru, the self-coup by former president Pedro Castillo, in 2022, caused the entire country to mobilize.

Even developed countries, such as the United States, experienced a crisis of political instability: when former President Donald Trump refused to admit his defeat in the elections, and allowed his followers to storm the Capitol, in January 2021, in an unprecedented and unusual chapter in the history of this country.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has led to large protests in Russia against what is seen as a gross injustice. These protests have been harshly repressed, with sentences of several years in prison for those who declare themselves against or show any kind of dissent.

On the other hand, countries like Nicaragua or Venezuela have high rates of political instability, beyond the fact that governments are apparently entrenched in power. Economic situations have a decisive influence on politics.

This entails serious risks for the normal development of society. High levels of unemployment, austere government measures, incidence of violence in all areas, contribute to the reduction of the quality of life and the growth of inequalities.


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

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