South Asian Fourth Branch

While institutions are clearly not a sufficient guard against decline, many definitions of democratic decline focus on institutional degradation and the curtailment of independent checks on executive or at times legislative authority. This article argues, generally, that independent, non-partisan, and constitutionally protected election commissions must be regarded as a key component of constitutional resilience in the face of potential decline. With particular regard to South Asia, it claims that despite cross-national variation on important institutional features of election commissions, there is an identifiable “South Asian model” for the fourth or democracy branch. I include India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, and Afghanistan within the country case studies. The article points out the strengths and weaknesses of the South Asian model and draws out the lessons for the separation of powers, constitutional design, and election administration.