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The main political difference between any 2 of the seemingly stable and effective liberal or social democracies that operate in advanced industrial societies (US, UK, Germany) and and any 2 political systems operating in formerly Second world or Third world countries (India, Mexico, South Africa, Russia, China, and Iran) not all of which are stable or effective. Connected each countries (better or poorer) performance to the causal forces that might be responsible for there performance making them stable or unstable.
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I feel that one can look at a list of qualities that might determine the stability of the country in question. From the evaluation of each quality, then taking the results as a whole, one can predict the stability (or lack thereof) of the country in question. Here is my list:
Economy: Stable and thriving vs. impoverished citizenry
Equal opportunity: Present or absent
Education level of the populace: Generally good vs. virtually absent
Freedom of religion: present or absent
Tolerance: oppressive government vs. democratic
Natural Resources: rich or meager
Structure of government: democracy vs. totalitarian or dictatorship
Freedom of travel: immigration encouraged, emmigration allowed vs. not
Constitution: presence or absence of a workable and fair constitution. Note: the United States is thought by most of the free world as having the best-crafted and most workable constitution.
In this context, stability seems to refer to long-standing and dependable government power hand-overs with attendant economic stability. Some characteristics of unstable countries are employment problems and infrastructure weaknesses along with political parties that tend toward militant or totalitarian rule. These characteristics are compounded by the presence of new or undervalued or underdeveloped national documents establishing the country's operation, responsibilities, rights and liberties.
Some characteristics of stable countries are productive employment opportunities and extensive infrastructures along with reasonably well-grounded political parties (one might argue that break-ins and sexual scandal impeachments are signs of political parties that are not well-grounded) that honor the power of we, the people. These characteristics are bolstered by the presence of revered national documents that set out the foundations of the country's operations, responsibilities, rights and liberties.
I think definitely #2 makes a good point talking about the history and long tradition that the "stable democracies" you refer to have, compared to various unstable democracies. Of course, those two terms are very debatable, and the riots that are occurring in Britain might lead some to question the "stable" nature of such "stable" democracies.
It's a very complex question, that can't fully be addressed here. Unstable economies, such as those with rampant inflation (Zimbabwe) or high unemployment and large disparities of wealth tend to become less stable, whether they are democracies or not. For decades we have witnessed continual rolling coups in African and Latin American countries, fostered by the discontent that comes from horrible economic conditions for a majority of the population. Military leaders and demogogues exploit those conditions in order to gain and maintain power.
I think that there are a few other differences. For one, a constitutional democracy provides stability. And by that, I do not mean a country that has a document that it does not adhere to, but a country that applies its constitution consistently. Second, in spite of the recent debacle between our executive and legislative branches, a system of checks and balances is necessary to have a stable democracy. Otherwise, a person who is voted in by the people is quite likely to become a dictator.
This is a question that could potentially be answered in many ways. I would argue that the major difference is that the stable democracies have long political traditions of moving toward greater democracy. The unstable democracies are those which have been democratic for a shorter time and do not have such traditions.
Of the countries you mention as stable democracies, all have been moving towards greater democracy for a long time. England has been becoming more democratic, one can argue, since the signing of Magna Charta in 1215. The US took off from that beginning and spent the time from 1776 on becoming even more democratic than England. These are countries with long democratic histories and, therefore, deep traditions that support democracy.
By contrast, the unstable democracies you mention are young. Mexico has only been a democracy of any sort for about 100 years. Russia has been democratic for less than 30 years. These are countries that do not have ingrained habits of democracy.
Democracy (which can also be called republicanism) is something that can only become stable over many years. This is why the stable democracies are those that have been moving towards democracy the longest.
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