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  • Author: Ladan Boroumand
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The Islamic Republic of Iran is confronted with an unprecedented legitimacy crisis. This article, highlighting the heterodox character of Iran’s theocratic ideology, stresses the tectonic social and cultural changes that have resulted in society’s estrangement from the state over the past forty years in a reaction against this ideology. The nature and depth of these social and cultural changes point to a historic process that is taking Iran toward becoming the first Muslim-majority society to weave into its spiritual, social, and intellectual fabric the principled separation of religion and the state characteristic of the liberal-democratic worldview.
  • Topic: Religion, Culture, Democracy, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Yascha Mounk
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Until a few years ago, many argued that liberal democracy was the most just and attractive political regime. The most prominent manifestation of this optimism was Francis Fukuyama’s thesis of the “end of history.” Ironically, many of the same social scientists who dismissed Fukuyama’s work out of hand at the time were themselves committed to equally far-reaching assumptions. Now, as the tides of history are rapidly turning, the hypotheses of theory are being reversed. Indeed, some authors today predict that as the conditions that made liberal democracy possible fade away, it is likely to be supplanted by illiberal democracy, competitive authoritarianism, or outright dictatorship. Such conclusions risk being just as rash as the more optimistic ones that preceded them.
  • Topic: Democracy, Populism, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Francis Fukuyama
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Since the publication of the Journal of Democracy began in 1990, the political climate has shifted from one of democratic gains and optimism to what Larry Diamond labels a “democratic recession.” Underlying these changes has been a reorientation of the major axis of political polarization, from a left-right divide defined largely in economic terms toward a politics based on identity. In a second major shift, technological development has had unexpected effects—including that of facilitating the rise of identity-based social fragmentation. The environment for democracy has been further transformed by other slow-moving changes, among them the shift toward neoliberal economic policies, the legacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lowered expectations regarding democratic transitions. Sustaining democracy will require rebuilding the legitimate authority of the institutions of liberal democracy, while resisting those powers that aspire to make nondemocratic institutions central.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Democracy, Legitimacy, Democratic Decline
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Nearly thirty years after governments loosened control over broadcasters and publishers, Africa’s media face increasing threats. New laws are resulting in the imprisonment of journalists and closure of media houses, while internet shutdowns and “social-media taxes” are increasingly common strategies to limit the mobilizing and informational potentials of digital technologies. These challenges are occurring in the midst of eroding public support for free media, as the latest Afrobarometer data show increased backing for government restrictions across the continent. Africans’ confidence in their media seems to be declining, potentially due to concerns over bias, hate speech, and disinformation.
  • Topic: Media, Journalism, Censorship, Freedom of Press
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: F. Michael Wuthrich, David Ingleby
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Drawing from the 2019 mayoral elections in Turkey, this paper highlights a path that opposition parties might take to defuse polarized environments and avoid playing into the political traps set by populists in power. The particular type of moral and amplified polarization that accompanies populism’s essential “thin” ideology builds a barrier between a populist’s supporters and the opposition. Yet the CHP opposition in Turkey has recently won notable victories with its new campaign approach of “radical love,” which counteracts populism’s polarizing logic and has exposed Erdoğan’s weakness.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Populism, Authority
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Asia
  • Author: Xu Zhangrun
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic has revealed the corruption of Chinese authoritarianism under Xi Jinping. In an unsparing critique, Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun argues that Chinese governance and political culture under the Chinese Communist Party have become morally bankrupt. The Party deceived the Chinese people as the viral outbreak in Wuhan spread across China before developing into a global pandemic. Chinese officials were more concerned with censoring the internet and news of the disease to preserve Xi’s one-man rule than with protecting the people from a public-health disaster. Xu calls on his fellow citizens to reject the strongman politics of the People’s Republic in favor of greater reform and the creation of a constitutional democracy.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Authoritarianism, Democracy, Digital Economy, Accountability
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Xiao Qiang
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, China has significantly increased controls over its already censored cyberspace—with a ruling that will allow jail terms for spreading “rumors” online, a cybersecurity law that will facilitate state control and data access, crackdowns on unauthorized VPN connections, and emphasis on the concept of “internet sovereignty.” At the same time, technological innovations in such areas as big-data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things are increasingly being harnessed to monitor the lives and activities of China’s 1.4 billion people. The new arsenal of the Chinese surveillance state includes mass video-surveillance projects incorporating facial-recognition technology; voice-recognition software that can identify speakers on phone calls; and a sweeping and intrusive program of DNA collection. In addition, officials are at work on a nationwide Social Credit System (SCS) intended to assess the conduct of every Chinese citizen.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Authoritarianism, Social Media, Surveillance, digital culture
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Ronald J. Deibert
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Social media have been battered in recent years by growing concerns about disinformation, privacy breaches, and the spread of harmful speech. This article itemizes the problems surrounding social media and political authority in the form of “three painful truths”—so termed because, although there is an emerging consensus around these points, many people are reluctant to squarely acknowledge the depth of the problems and the fundamental changes that would be required to mitigate them. The first painful truth is that the social-media business is built around personal-data surveillance, with products ultimately designed to spy on us in order to push advertising in our direction. The second painful truth is that we have consented to this, but not entirely wittingly: Social media are designed as addiction machines, expressly programmed to draw upon our emotions. The third painful truth is that the attention-grabbing algorithms underlying social media also propel authoritarian practices that aim to sow confusion, ignorance, prejudice, and chaos, thereby facilitating manipulation and undermining accountability. Moreover, the fine-grained surveillance that companies perform for economic reasons is a valuable proxy for authoritarian control.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Social Media, Surveillance, Disinformation
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Marc F. Plattner
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: With the longstanding dominance of center-left and center-right parties ebbing across Europe and Latin America, there is a growing danger that substantial segments of the right will be captured by tendencies indifferent or even hostile to liberal democracy. The 2019 elections to the European Parliament will provide a key test. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has transformed the debate by openly promoting the concept of “illiberal democracy.” Orbán seeks to equate liberal democracy as such with a set of policy positions supported by forces on the left, thereby prying conservatives away from their fundamental commitment to liberal democracy. This rising challenge has manifested itself in a struggle for control of the European Union’s center-right bloc, the European People’s Party, as well as in the recent writings of several political theorists identified with the conservative side of the political spectrum.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Democracy, Liberal Order, Conservatism, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Hungary, Latin America, Central Europe
  • Author: Glenn Tiffert
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The Chinese Communist Party allows no public commemoration of the protest movement that it violently crushed in the vicinity of Tiananmen Square in 1989, but its private reckoning with that tragedy has never mattered more. President Xi Jinping has quietly taken Tiananmen as a guiding light, reading it as a cautionary tale of regime decay and a playbook for revival. This view has inspired his campaigns to tackle corruption, restore ideological discipline, and reclaim control over history. And the most lasting contribution of all to Xi’s tenure may be the selective rehabilitation of traditional Chinese culture as a source of political legitimacy.
  • Topic: Corruption, Social Movement, Authoritarianism, Protests
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Wang Dan
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The 1989 democracy movement and its suppression marked a watershed in China’s contemporary history. The movement has influenced China’s subsequent development in at least three major ways. First, it was an enlightenment movement that spread the concept of democracy far and wide. Second, it played a vital role in grooming talent for the development of China’s civil society and the next wave of prodemocracy activism. Third, it laid a foundation for democratization in China’s political culture and popular mindsets. At the same time, the movement’s violent suppression left a legacy of fear and has led to the elevation of economic over social goals; a general attitude of defeatism; and a profound deterioration in social morality and ethics.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Authoritarianism, Democracy, Protests, Repression
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Edward Lemon
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Interpol, the world’s leading police-cooperation body, aims to “connect police for a safer world.” Although the organization’s constitution states that Interpol cannot engage in “any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character,” it is increasingly being subverted by autocratic regimes seeking to pursue their exiled political opponents. The number of Red Notices (a type of arrest request issued through Interpol) has increased tenfold in the past fifteen years. Those targeted face the risk of arrest if they travel across borders; have difficulties obtaining visas and open bank accounts; and suffer reputational damage. Interpol remains opaque and lacks accountability for its actions. Recent reforms have started to address some of these issues. But more needs to be done to prevent the hijacking, repurposing, and weaponizing of Interpol by today’s globalized authoritarian regimes.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Law Enforcement, Transparency, Interpol
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Jon Temin, Yoseph Badwaza
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: While enormous challenges persist, the ongoing political opening in Ethiopia offers an opportunity for the expansion of democracy and respect for human rights in a geopolitically important state, and is already having significant implications for peace and security in the Horn of Africa. Managing massive expectations, maintaining stability, and instituting a political order in which the country’s divergent political groups and ethnic communities are meaningfully represented and at peace with each other are key tests that will determine the trajectory of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s bold political experiment. With robust citizen engagement and prudent international support, there is reason to believe that the challenges are surmountable.
  • Topic: Human Rights, United Nations, Democracy, Political stability
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia
  • Author: Milan W. Svolik
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: When can we realistically expect ordinary people to check the authoritarian ambitions of elected politicians? An answer to this question is key to understanding the most prominent development in the dynamic of democratic survival since the end of the Cold War: the subversion of democracy by elected incumbents and its emergence as the most common form of democratic breakdown. This article proposes an explanation according to which political polarization undermines the public’s ability to serve as a democratic check: In polarized electorates, voters are willing to trade off democratic principles for partisan interests. The article presents evidence that supports this claim; raises questions about the real-world relevance of conventional measures of support for democracy; and highlights the importance of understanding the role that ordinary people play in democratic backsliding.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Elections, Democracy, Polarization
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Sheri Berman, Maria Snegovaya
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Across Europe and many other parts of the world, traditional parties of the left seem to be in terminal decline. While there are many reasons for this, we argue that the most important was the left’s shift to the center on economic issues during the late twentieth century. Although this shift made some sense in the short-term, over the long-term it had deleterious, perhaps even fatal, consequences: It watered down the left’s distinctive historical profile; rendered socialist and social-democratic parties unable to take advantage of widespread discontent over the fallout from neoliberal reforms and the 2008 financial crisis; created incentives for parties to emphasize cultural and social rather than economic or class appeals; and undermined the representative nature of democracy. The shift in the left’s economic profile, in short, deserves center stage in any account of its decline. Moreover, this shift and its consequences have been crucial to the rise of a nativist, populist right and to the broader problems facing democracy today in Western and Eastern Europe, as well as other parts of the world.
  • Topic: Democracy, Populism, Liberalism, Leftist Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Edward Aspinall, Marcus Mietzner
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Though pluralism and democracy are generally seen as being mutually supportive, recent developments in Indonesia suggest that they can also be in tension. Over the last five years, an old social cleavage separating pluralists from Islamists has been reactivated. In the 2019 presidential election, the incumbent, Joko Widodo, won by increasing support from religious minorities and traditionalist Muslims; his authoritarian-populist challenger, Prabowo Subianto, was backed by groups promoting a greater role for Islam in political life. Empowered by this socioreligious polarization, Widodo’s government has relied on increasingly illiberal measures to contain the populist-Islamist alliance, undermining some of Indonesia’s democratic achievements in the process.
  • Topic: Religion, Democracy, Secularism, Pluralism
  • Political Geography: Indonesia, Asia
  • Author: Mai Hassan, Ahmed Kodouda
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: This article traces the reign and downfall of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s longtime autocrat. Like other autocrats, al-Bashir attempted to prevent coups against his rule by crafting a personalistic regime that weakened important political actors and tied their fates to his own. But Sudan’s 2018–19 popular uprising, which resulted in al-Bashir’s ousting by his own security forces, suggests that, under pressure, personalistic regimes may quickly evolve in a way that strengthens alternative power centers. In Sudan, the renewed strength of the security forces continues to threaten the nascent democratization process ushered in by the popular uprising.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Military Affairs, Authoritarianism, Democracy, Protests, Transition, Civil-Military Relations
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan, Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Rod Alence, Anne Pitcher
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: This article assesses the state of democracy in South Africa, twenty-five years after Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) came to power. The ANC won its sixth straight election in 2019, led by presidential candidate Cyril Ramaphosa. Yet the party faced a strengthened challenge from the populist left, and the 2019 contest saw the smallest ANC majority and the lowest turnout of any general election since the end of apartheid. This article argues that the most fundamental test for South Africa’s democracy has been dislodging the corrupt networks of “state capture” entrenched under former president Jacob Zuma. Civil society, opposition parties, accountability agencies, and the ANC itself succeeded in removing Zuma before the end of his term, but the task of rebuilding public trust remains.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Populism
  • Political Geography: Africa, South Africa, Southern Africa
  • Author: Amichai Magen
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Global rates of terrorism have skyrocketed since 9/11, yet the aggregate increase tells us very little about the distribution of attacks across different regime types. Contrary to the traditional scholarly view and popular perceptions in the West, reasonably high-quality democracies enjoy a robust and growing “triple democracy advantage” in facing the scourge of post-9/11 terrorism. Not only are liberal democracies and polyarchies less prone to terrorist attacks than all other regime types, but the rate of increase in the number of attacks among these democracies is substantially lower in comparison to other regime types, and they are significantly better at minimizing casualties.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Counter-terrorism, War on Terror
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Alexander Cooley, John Heathershaw, J.C. Sharman
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: A growing body of analysis has explored how kleptocrats systematically capture and loot their domestic state institutions, but scholars and policy makers have paid less attention to how globalization enables grand corruption, as well as the laundering of kleptocrats’ finances and reputations. Shell companies and new forms of international investment, such as luxury real-estate purchases, serve to launder the ill-gotten gains of kleptocrats and disimbed them from their country of origin. Critically, this normalization of “everyday kleptocracy” depends heavily on transnational professional intermediaries: Western public-relations agents, lobbyists and lawyers help to recast kleptocrats as internationally respected businesspeople and philanthropic cosmopolitans. The resulting web of relationships makes up a “transnational uncivil society,” which bends global-governance institutions to work in its favor.
  • Topic: Corruption, Normalization, Kleptocracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Zoltan Barany
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Following the victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in November 2015 elections, many vested their hopes in the NLD’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize–laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whom they saw as a force that would propel Burma toward democratic transition. Constitutional constraints have severely limited Suu Kyi’s power to transform Burma’s political life, with the military continuing to be the most politically influential institution. Even given these limitations, however, Suu Kyi has thus far disappointed her supporters at home and especially abroad. Economic reforms have come slowly, democratic standards have slipped, and Suu Kyi and her government have faced international condemnation for their treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
  • Topic: Reform, Elections, Democracy, Transition
  • Political Geography: Asia, Burma, Myanmar
  • Author: Yascha Mounk
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Over the past decades, the ability of liberal democracies around the world to translate popular views into public policy has declined. This is a result of two major developments: Legislatures have become less reflective of popular opinion because of the growing role of money in politics. At the same time, they have also become less powerful because of the growing importance of bureaucratic agencies, central banks, judicial review, free trade, and international institutions. But there are no easy solutions, since some of these institutions are needed to meet high expectations on government performance. The “technocratic dilemma” thus poses a real threat to liberal democracy’s ability to meet the public’s twin demands of responsiveness and performance.
  • Topic: Economics, Governance, Democracy, Liberal Order
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Susan L. Shirk
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: After Mao Zedong died, Deng Xiaoping and his colleagues sought to prevent “the overconcentration of power” by introducing fixed terms of office, term limits, and a mandatory retirement age; delegating authority from the Communist Party to government agencies; and holding regular meetings of Party institutions. All these moves were designed to decentralize authority, regularize political life and check dictatorial power. The centerpiece of the institutionalization project was the practice of regular peaceful leadership succession followed by Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Regular premortem leadership succession was a rare achievement in a communist system and the most important source of China’s “authoritarian resilience.” Yet today, Xi Jinping is taking China back to a personalistic dictatorship after decades of institutionalized collective leadership. He has clearly signaled his intention to remain in office after his normal two terms end in 2022. This article analyzes the reasons why the institutional rules and precedents laid down since Deng Xiaoping’s time failed to prevent the emergence of another strongman leader like Mao Zedong.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Political stability, Institutionalism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: William A. Galston
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Across the West, economic dislocation and demographic change have triggered a demand for strong leaders. This surge of populism is more than an emotional backlash; it encourages a political structure that threatens liberal democracy. While populism accepts principles of popular sovereignty and majoritarianism, it is skeptical about constitutionalism and liberal protections for individuals. Moreover, populists’ definition of “the people” as homogeneous cannot serve as the basis for a modern democracy, which stands or falls with the protection of pluralism. Although this resurgent tribalism may draw strength from the incompleteness of life in liberal society, the liberal-democratic system uniquely harbors the power of self-correction, the essential basis for needed reforms.
  • Topic: Corruption, Democracy, Populism, Liberal Order
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America
  • Author: Ivan Krastev, Stephen Holmes
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: For countries emerging from communism, the post-1989 imperative to “be like the West” has generated discontent and even a “return of the repressed,” as the region feels old nationalist stirrings and new demographic pressures. The origins of the region’s current illiberalism are emotional and preideological, rooted in rebellion at the humiliations that accompany a project requiring acknowledgment of a foreign culture as superior to one’s own. Further contributing to illiberalism in the region is a largely unspoken preoccupation with demographic collapse—resulting from aging populations, low birth rates, and massive outmigration—which manifests as a fear that the arrival of unassimilable foreigners will dilute national identities and weaken national cohesion.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Post Cold War, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Peter Kreko, Zsolt Enyedi
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The reelection of Fidesz leader Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary in April 2018 has entrenched a hybrid regime within the European Union. This article discusses some of the most crucial factors that have led to Hungary’s democratic backsliding and supplied the institutional and cultural bases of Fidesz’s rule. The authors particularly focus on phenomena that contributed to the party’s third landslide electoral victory, including the rhetoric of identity politics, conspiracy theories, and the fake news industry. While an idiosyncratic sequence of particular events led to the ascendance of illiberal rule in Hungary, the causal factors involved are virtually omnipresent and could therefore lead to similar outcomes elsewhere.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Elections, Democracy, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eastern Europe, Hungary, Central Europe
  • Author: Jacques Rupnik
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Thirty years ago in Central and Eastern Europe, belief in an open society and a sense of reasserted national and indeed European identity seemed to go hand-in-hand. Today this has changed: Through the combination of the rise of “illiberal democracy” and heightened concerns about identity in the face of the migrant wave, the authoritarian and sovereigntist turn in Central Europe has revealed a rupture in the fabric of the European Union. This draws to a close the post-1989 liberal cycle, but perhaps also the longer cycle associated with the Enlightenment, which is now more than two-hundred years old.
  • Topic: Nationalism, European Union, Democracy, Liberal Order, Post Cold War, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Alexander Libman, Anastassia V. Obydenkova
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: This article examines the goals, methods, and implications of regional organizations founded and dominated by autocracies—including the Commonwealth of Independent States (spearheaded by Russia), Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China), Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (Venezuela), and Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia). It shows the role that these organizations play in preserving and promoting autocracy and the different tools they use for this purpose: rhetorical endorsement; the redistribution of resources to support weaker authoritarian states; and even military interventions to suppress revolution. The existence of authoritarian regionalism poses an important challenge for Western states and institutions in democracy promotion around the world.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Authoritarianism, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Middle East, Asia, South America, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela
  • Author: Kenneth F. Greene, Mariano Sanchez-Talanquer
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: On 1 July 2018, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) won a decisive victory in Mexico’s presidential election, while a coalition led by AMLO’s National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) claimed majorities in both houses of Congress. AMLO’s calls for change resonated with voters frustrated by chronic poverty and inequality, rising violence, and corruption, and his win has called into question the stability of Mexico’s party system. Yet AMLO, who strove to assemble a “big tent” coalition, is ultimately more a product of the system than a disruptive outsider. Moreover, clear programmatic differences among Mexico’s major parties persist, as do the institutional advantages they enjoy. It is thus most probable that MORENA’s ascent augurs a recomposition of the party system rather than a process of partisan dealignment.
  • Topic: Poverty, Elections, Democracy, Inequality, Political Parties
  • Political Geography: Latin America, North America, Mexico
  • Author: Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Huq
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Democracies can collapse or erode beyond repair, but they can also suffer substantial yet “non-fatal” deterioration in the quality of democratic institutions, and then experience a rebound. Such “near misses” have received little or no attention in the new wave of scholarship on why democracies die (or survive). This article develops the concept of a democratic near miss. It first considers numerical metrics of democratic quality as a means of identifying near misses, but finds that these metrics provide inconsistent and conflicting guidance. Instead, this essay uses a case study method—focusing on Finland in 1930, Colombia in 2010, and Sri Lanka in 2015—to capture the dynamics of democratic near misses. These cases suggest that nonmajoritarian actors, including political-party elites and unelected judges and bureaucrats, have a critical role to play in averting democratic erosion.
  • Topic: Culture, Military Affairs, Democracy, Institutions
  • Political Geography: Finland, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Global Focus
  • Author: Robert Ford, Matthew Goodwin
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted by a 52 to 48 margin to leave the European Union. The result of the EU referendum was the latest and most dramatic expression of long-term social changes that have been silently reshaping public opinion, political behavior, and party competition in Britain and Western democracies. In this essay, we consider the underlying social and attitudinal shifts that made “Brexit” and the rise to prominence of the populist, right-wing U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) possible. Finally, we consider what these momentous developments reveal about the state of British politics and society.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Regional Cooperation, European Union, Brexit
  • Political Geography: Britain, United Kingdom, Europe
  • Author: Roberto Stefan Foa, Yascha Mounk
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: In recent years, parties and candidates challenging key democratic norms have won unprecedented popular support in liberal democracies across the globe. Drawing on public opinion data from the World Values Survey and various national polls, we show that the success of anti-establishment parties and candidates is not a temporal or geographic aberration, but rather a reflection of growing popular disaffection with liberal-democratic norms and institutions, and of increasing support for authoritarian interpretations of democracy. The record number of anti-system politicians in office raises uncertainty about the strength of supposedly “consolidated” liberal democracies and highlights the need for further analysis of the signs of democratic deconsolidation.
  • Topic: Democracy, Liberal Order, Norms, Deconsolidation
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Nathaniel Persily
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The 2016 presidential election represents the latest chapter in the disintegration of the legacy institutions that had set bounds for U.S. politics in the postwar era. It is tempting (and in many ways correct) to view the Donald Trump campaign as unprecedented in its breaking of established norms of politics. Yet this type of campaign could only be successful because established institutions—especially the mainstream media and political-party organizations—had already lost most of their power, both in the United States and around the world. The void that these eroding institutions left was filled by an unmediated populist nationalism tailor-made for the Internet age.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Internet, Election Interference
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: William A. Galston
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: In the United States and abroad, a populist surge threatens the assumptions and achievements of politicians and policy makers from mainstream parties. In the United States, populist discontents have been fueled by an array of factors, including the Great Recession that resulted from the 2008 financial crisis; the failure of past reforms to stem the tide of illegal immigration over the country’s southern border; the economic consequences of sweeping technological change; and the rise of an education-based meritocracy that has left less-educated citizens in outlying towns and rural areas feeling denigrated and devalued. Today, some parties on both the left and right are calling into question the norms and institutions of liberal democracy itself. Growing insecurity has triggered a demand for strong leaders, and forms of authoritarianism that many believed had been left behind for good a quarter-century ago are threatening to resurface. These developments illuminate the historical case for liberal democracy, as well as the sources of its current weakness.
  • Topic: Financial Crisis, Elections, Populism, Liberal Order
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Ghia Nodia
  • Publication Date: 04-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: With the advance of modernization, nationalism was supposed to fade away. Yet everywhere we look, even in advanced democracies, nationalism’s influence seems larger than ever. What did we get wrong? The assumption (sometimes implicit) in most theories of nationalism is that it belongs to early modernization and therefore is bound, as development advances, to outgrow its utility and become marginal or even (in the Marxist view) vanish altogether. This understanding allows for a happy congruence between normative and theoretical views. Normatively, nationalism is considered bad because it is antiliberal, opposes individual rights, is hostile to minorities, generally opposes diversity, and so on. But luckily, nationalism is also historically doomed because history will make it redundant. It is this assumption of happy congruence that we must now give up.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Democracy, Modernization, Postnationalism
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ashutosh Varshney
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Of late, Indian democracy has been confronted with a new political economy. Strong economic growth over the last three decades has generated the world’s fourth-largest collection of dollar billionaires and the third-largest middle class, both for the first time in Indian history, while still leaving the single largest concentration of the poor behind. In a democracy where the lower-income groups have come to vote as much as, or more than, the higher-income groups, the polity must find creative ways of walking on two legs: maintaining the momentum of economic growth while also taking care of mass welfare.
  • Topic: Political Economy, Elections, Democracy, Welfare
  • Political Geography: India, Asia
  • Author: Sheri Berman
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Over the past decade illiberal democracy has spread across the globe. Many analysts argue that democracy itself is to blame. Democracy is all about empowering the people, but, according to this line of argument, the people can be moved by passions and self-interest, and their unchecked rule can lead to tyrannical majoritarianism. While illiberal democracy is certainly worrying, many of its critics fundamentally misunderstand how democracy has traditionally developed and what its historical relationship with liberalism has been. Rather than the norm, liberal democracy has been the exception. Moreover, illiberal democracy is most often a stage on the route to liberal democracy rather than the endpoint of a country’s political trajectory. In addition, although democracy unchecked by liberalism can slide into tyrannical majoritarianism, liberalism unchecked by democracy can easily deteriorate into elitist oligarchy.
  • Topic: Democracy, Liberal Order, Elites, Illiberal Democracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jorgen Moller, Svend-Erik Skaaning, Agnes Cornell
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Several observers have recently invoked interwar political developments to make the case that even established democracies are fragile and vulnerable to breakdown. However, the real lesson of the interwar period is that even crises as devastating as the Great Depression and the political success of totalitarian movements did little to undermine the stability of established democratic systems. Only in new and fragile democracies did the economic, political, and social dislocations of the 1920s and 1930s tear apart the democratic fabric. Although long established democracies in Western Europe and North America may today be facing a perilous situation, the interwar experience does not lend support to the argument that they are fragile. ​
  • Topic: Democracy, Fragile States, Totalitarianism, Great Depression
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, Western Europe
  • Author: Vladimir V. Kara-Murza
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: This essay chronicles Vladimir Putin’s successful efforts to transform Russia from the flawed democracy of the 1990s to the fully fledged authoritarian regime it is today, with falsified elections; censorship of the major media outlets; and repression of the opposition. Yet there are growing numbers of Russians—especially among the young generation—who are prepared to stand up against autocracy and corruption, as demonstrated by the nationwide protests that began in 2017. In the author’s view, the trends (and the demographics) are not in the Kremlin’s favor, and this emerging movement will eventually succeed in bringing the rule of law and democracy to Russia. It is important for Western leaders to maintain dialogue with Russian society and to avoid equating Russia with the current regime.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Democracy, Repression, Dictatorship, Censorship
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eastern Europe
  • Author: M. Steven Fish
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s ruling class again claims to represent a superior alternative to liberal democracy. How can we theorize this regime? Putinism is a form of autocracy that is conservative, populist, and personalistic. Its conservatism means that Putinism prioritizes maintaining the status quo and avoiding instability. Conservatism also overlaps with Putinism’s populism in crowd-pleasing broadsides against gay rights and feminism, but gives that populism a distinct cast when it comes to questions of social spending and interethnic or interconfessional relations. Finally, as a personalist autocracy, Putinism rests on one-man rule. Yet the identification of the regime with a single person may fatally undermine Putinism’s effectiveness in its self-appointed role as a bulwark against upheaval.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Democracy, Liberal Order, Conservatism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Paul Howe
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Two recent papers in the Journal of Democracy highlight a disturbing erosion in public support for core democratic principles in a number of Western democracies over the past twenty years. The common assumption is that this trend reflects growing public dissatisfaction with the operation of the democratic system. This paper (focused on the United States and drawing upon World Values Survey data) rejects this interpretation and argues instead that the rise of antidemocratic opinion is more closely linked to shifting social and cultural values, in particular burgeoning antisocial attitudes. Disregard for democratic norms is part of a larger social transformation that has seen rising disengagement and alienation, particularly among younger generations and lower socioeconomic classes.
  • Topic: Democracy, Norms, Deconsolidation , antidemocratic
  • Political Geography: Global Focus