|Part of the Politics series|
|Basic forms of government|
Ethnocracy is a form of government where representatives of a particular ethnic group hold a number of government posts disproportionately large to the percentage of the total population that the particular ethnic group(s) represents and use them to advance the position of their particular ethnic group(s) to the detriment of others.
The ethnic groups are systematically discriminated against by the state and may face repressions or violations of human rights at the hands of state organs. Ethnocracy can also be a political regime which is instituted on the basis of qualified rights to citizenship, and with ethnic affiliation (defined in terms of race, descent, religion, or language) as the distinguishing principle.
Generally, the raison d'être of an ethnographic government is to secure the most important instruments of state power in the hands of a specific ethnic collectivity. All other considerations concerning the distribution of power are ultimately subordinated to this basic intention. Ethnocracies are generally considered to be non-democratic in nature.
Ethnocracies are characterised by their control system – the legal, institutional, and physical instruments of power deemed necessary to secure ethnic dominance. The degree of system discrimination will tend to vary greatly from case to case and from situation to situation. If the dominant group (whose interests the system is meant to serve and whose identity it is meant to represent) constitutes a small minority (20% or less) of the population within the state territory, extreme degrees of institutionalised suppression will probably be necessary to sustain the status quo.
The other side of the coin might well be a system of full-fledged democracy (inclusive and competitive in Robert Dahl's terminology) for the privileged population, making up what Pierre van den Berghe (1981) calls "Herrenvolk Democracy"(with reference to apartheid South Africa). This is a system of ethnocracy which offers democratic participation to the dominant group only.
Mono-ethnocracy vs. Poly-ethnocracy
In October 2012, Lise Morjé Howard  introduced the terms mono-ethnocracy and poly-ethnocracy. Mono-ethnocracy is a type of regime where one ethnic group dominates, which conforms with the traditional understanding of ethnocracy. Poly-ethnocracy is a type of regime where more than one ethnic group governs the state. Both mono- and poly-ethnocracy are types of ethnocracy. Ethnocracy is founded on the assumptions that ethnic groups are primordial, ethnicity is the basis of political identity, and citizens rarely share multiple ethnic identities.
Lise Morjé Howard  has labeled Belgium as both a poly-ethnocracy and a democracy. Citizens in Belgium exercise political rights found in democracies, such as voting and free speech. However, Belgian politics is increasingly defined by ethnic divisions between the Flemish and Francophone. For example, all the major political parties are formed around either a Flemish or Francophone identity. Furthermore, bilingual education has disappeared from most Francophone schools.
Israel has been labelled an ethnocracy by scholars such as: Alexander Kedar, Shlomo Sand, Oren Yiftachel, Asaad Ghanem, Haim Yakobi, Nur Mashala and Hannah Naveh. However, scholars such as Gershon Shafir, Yoav Peled and Sammy Smooha prefer the term ethnic democracy to describe Israel, a term which is intended to represent a "middle ground" between an ethnocracy and a liberal democracy.
Latvia and Estonia
There is a spectrum of opinion among authors as to the classification of Latvia and Estonia, spanning from Liberal or Civic Democracy through Ethnic democracy to Ethnocracy. Will Kymlicka regards Estonia as a democracy, stressing the peculiar status of Russian-speakers, stemming from being at once partly transients, partly immigrants and partly natives. British researcher Neil Melvin concludes that Estonia is moving towards a genuinely pluralist democratic society through its liberalization of citizenship and actively drawing of leaders of the Russian settler communities into the political process. James Hughes, in the United Nations Development Programme's Development and Transition, contends Latvia and Estonia are cases of ‘ethnic democracy’ where the state has been captured by the titular ethnic group and then used to promote ‘nationalising’ policies and alleged discrimination against Russophone minorities. (Development and Transition has also published papers disputing Hughes' contentions.) Israeli researchers Oren Yiftachel and As’ad Ghanem consider Estonia as an ethnocracy. Israeli sociologist Sammy Smooha, of the University of Haifa, disagrees with Yiftachel, contending that the ethnocratic model developed by Yiftachel does not fit the case of Latvia and Estonia; it is not a settler society as its core ethnic group is indigenous, nor did it expand territorially or have a diaspora intervening in its internal affairs as in the case of Israel for which Yiftachel originally developed his model.
Ethnocracy indicates a specific principle of power-distribution in a society. In his book Power-Sharing in South Africa, Arend Lijphart classifies contemporary constitutional proposals for a solution to the conflict in South Africa into four categories:
- majoritarian (one man, one vote)
- non-democratic (varieties of white domination)
- partitionist (creating new political entities)
- consociational (power-sharing by proportional representation and elite accommodation) (1985:5)
Not surprisingly, Lijphart argues strongly in favour of the consociational model and his categories illustrates that, on the constitutional level, state power can be distributed along two dimensions: Legal-institutional and territorial.
Along the legal-institutional dimension we can distinguish between singularism (power centralised according to membership in a specific group), pluralism (power-distribution among defined groups according to relative numerical strength), and universalism (power-distribution without any group-specific qualifications). The three main alternatives on the territorial dimension are the unitary state, "intermediate restructuring" (within one formal sovereignty), and partition (creating separate political entities). Ethnocracy indicates a specific principle of power-distribution in a society.
- Ethnic nationalism
- Dominant minority
- Ethnic elite
- Ethnic nepotism
- Ketuanan Melayu
- South Africa under apartheid
- Human rights in Estonia
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- Politics of Ethnocracies: Strategies and Dilemmas of Ethnic Domination Nils A. Butenschøn