Old-fashioned military coups and blatant election-day fraud are becoming mercifully rarer these days, but other, subtler forms of democratic regression are a growing problem that demands more attention.
Volume 27, Issue 1
What's Wrong with East-Central Europe?
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.
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?
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 Authoritarian Threat
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.
While “autocracy promotion” presents a real danger, its influence so far has been limited. Because authoritarian regimes are concerned first with furthering their own interests, their interventions often have contradictory effects, sometimes even inadvertently fostering greater pluralism.
The ruling EPRDF and its allies won every single seat in parliament in Ethiopia’s May 2015 elections, signaling a hardening of the regime’s authoritarian rule.
Ethiopia’s ruling party has long been tightening its grip, using antiterrorism laws and harsh restrictions on media and civil society to silence voices critical of the regime.
The Quest for Good Governance
Are the “virtuous circles” crucial to good governance always the product of long-term developments under unique historical circumstances, or can they be started or accelerated by wise policies?
Much can be done to uproot graft when a major event such as the Rose Revolution sweeps in a determined new team on a wave of massive public support.
Bold leadership from people in key posts can effectively promote public integrity, but they must be ready to accept tenures that are stormy and short.
A change in the shape of partisan competition, and the traditional parties’ ability to adapt to it, has led to the decline of once-pervasive clientelism.
The surprising electoral defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in January 2015 was reinforced by his failed comeback in August parliamentary elections.
A review of Democratic Transitions: Conversations with World Leaders, edited by Sergio Bitar and Abraham F. Lowenthal.
Reports on elections in Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belize, Burkina Faso, Burma, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Egypt, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Seychelles, Tanzania, Turkey, and Venezuela.
Excerpts from: remarks given by Iranian historian Ladan Boroumand at the opening of the Eighth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy; a speech given by Venezuelan opposition leader Jesús Torrealba; remarks given by Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza as as he accepted on behalf of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov a posthumous freedom award.