Democracy is enduring in Latin America, but it cannot be said to be prospering. Illiberalism and polarization are rising. Yet core democratic institutions remain firmly in place, and therein lies hope.
In Malaysia’s May 2018 general election, a grand bargain between ex–prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and reform leader Anwar Ibrahim produced a political earthquake that ended 61 years of rule by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).
Most competitive authoritarian regimes have proven strikingly unstable over recent decades. Quasi-democratic institutions, rather than serving authoritarians as useful instruments of manipulation, have frequently contributed to the breakdown of these systems.
Public-opinion data from Pew Research Center show that global support for representative democracy is widespread, but often thin. Amid rising economic anxiety, cultural unease, and political frustration, citizens are increasingly open to alternative systems of government.
Taking advantage of broad global respect for regionalism, authoritarian regimes are using their own regional organizations to bolster fellow autocracies. These groupings offer a mechanism for lending legitimacy, redistributing resources, and insulating members from democratic influences.