Although the leading authoritarian regimes are today integrated in many ways into the global system, they have not become more like the democracies; instead, they have been devising policies and practices aimed at blocking democracy’s advance.
Is democracy in East-Central Europe suffering because of a lack of liberal zeal among elites, as Dawson and Hanley contend, or is it because
liberal policies have failed to deliver on their promises?
Across East-Central Europe, the political center ground has long been characterized by the uneasy cohabitation of liberal and illiberal norms, but the latter have been gradually overpowering the former.
China’s government looks to Singapore, the only country in the region to modernize without liberalizing, in hopes of finding the key to combining authoritarian rule with economic progress and “good governance.”
The Putin regime, having faced its first real challenge in the form of mass protests after the 2011 Duma elections, is responding with a series of laws intended to intimidate its civil-society opposition, if not stamp it out altogether.
The Arab world’s old autocracies survived by manipulating the sharp identity conflicts in their societies. The division and distrust that this style of rule generated is now making it especially difficult to carry out the kind of pact-making often crucial to successful democratic transitions.
The left-populist authoritarianism that is taking hold across a swath of Latin America bears many resemblances to the rightist populism that was once widespread in the region. There are signs, however, that the leftist variant will be an even bigger problem for liberal democracy.
President Rafael Correa, now entering his third term, has built a curious form of populist-authoritarian regime. He champions redistributionism and a kind of technocratic leftism while assaulting the traditional left along with such mainstays of a liberal society as the freedom of the press.