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Democratization is the transition from authoritarian or semi-authoritarian systems to democratic political systems, where democratic systems are taken to be those approximating to universal suffrage, an independent judiciary and reasonable separation of powers (equivalent to the USA's checks and balances).

Factors that have long been thought to lead to democratization include: a large middle class; participation in the community of Western nations; and/or a capitalist economy, among other factors.

Recent research by Michael Aleprete, John Hickman, and Philip Reeves analyzing the statistical determinants of democratization suggests that the two most important factors leading to democratization include the total size of the economy and similarity of military alliances with those of the United States. Factors such as the percentage of the population practicing Islam and western culture have been determined to have a statistically insignificant association with democracy.

Whilst democratization is most often thought of in the context of national or regional politics, the term can also be applied to international bodies (e.g the United Nations where there is an ongoing call for reform and altered voting structures) and corporations. In firms, the traditional power structure was top-down direction and the boss-knows-best; this is quite different from consultation, empowerment (of lower levels) and a diffusion of decision-making (power) throughout the firm.