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  • 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Leonardo R. Arriola, Terrance Lyons
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: Ethiopia’s 2015 elections confirm that the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)—having won 100 percent of parliamentary seats—has chosen to entrench an authoritarian system. We argue that this total election victory was meant as a signal to party cadres that defection is not tolerated. Our analysis of intra-regime dynamics shows how the EPRDF has responded to the death of Meles Zenawi through greater reliance on trusted party stalwarts for high-level posts. We conclude that growing demands from lower-level party cadres threaten to transform the ruling party from a disciplined national organization into a patronage-based alliance of ethnic factions.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Elections, Democracy, Rigged Elections
  • Political Geography: Africa, Ethiopia