An uneven playing field is a central, yet underappreciated, component of contemporary authoritarianism. In many regimes, democratic competition is undermined less by fraud or repression than by unequal access to resources, media, and state institutions. When opposition are denied access to finance and mass media, their ability to compete in elections—and survive between elections—is often impaired. Where the playing field is skewed, the weakening, collapse, and/or cooptation of resource-starved parties may effectively depopulate the opposition, even in the absence of large-scale repression. A skewed playing field may thus allow autocrats to maintain power without resorting to the kind of fraud or repression that can undermine their international standing, allowing them, in effect, to have their cake and eat it too.
Why Democracy Needs a Level Playing Field
Issue Date January 2010
Page Numbers 57-68