What do you understand by a Praetorian Democracy? Explain with suitable examples. Why some prefer to call Pakistan a Praetorian Democracy?

This term Praetorian Democracy is derived from Praetorian Guard (Latin: cohortes praetoriae), which was a special unit of the Imperial Roman Army to serve as personal body guards to the Roman emperors. During Roman Republic, the Praetorians served as a small escort force for high-ranking officials such as army generals or provincial governors. Obviously, the power of Praetorians was such that the emperors were virtually dependent and practically subordinate to them.
This term today is used for those republics where state is weaker than military and it serves no more than a tool for the powerful military chiefs to manipulate / violate the principles of representative democracy. Such countries are democracy for namesake as they have a parliament which has some power to enforce its authority. But that power is practically limited and eclipsed by the powerful military.
This term was used by Marx to criticize regime of Napoleon III. There have been several countries in Latin America and Africa and even in Asia where a powerful military has eclipsed the governments elected by the people. Calling Pakistan a Praetorian democracy is based on the premise that Pakistan’s deep state is the army and the ISI and the representative democracy has often failed there. In most part of its history, Pakistan has been ruled, governed and dominated by military and the uniformed military chief has also served as president of Pakistan. The government of such a President may have elections for several tiers but is not a truly representative democracy.

Question for UPSC Mains:
What do you understand by a Praetorian Democracy? Explain with suitable examples. Why some prefer to call Pakistan a Praetorian Democracy?

Published: November 12, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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