Is liberal democracy the only suitable type of government for a strong, modern society? A quarter-century ago, the answer seemed to be a clear yes. But today the picture is much cloudier.
Volume 28, Issue 4
“Democratic deconsolidation” on the level of attitudes and beliefs is real, and behind it lies a disturbing rise in tolerance for antisocial behavior, especially among the young.
Iran's 2017 Election
Despite all its flaws, Iran’s May 2017 presidential balloting amounted to another small but genuine advance for the cause of democracy.
Wrongly viewed by many media sources as a victory for “reform” and “openness,” the recent presidential election in Iran actually reflected the demoralization and disengagement of the country’s prodemocratic opposition.
Once hailed as a megaphone for marginalized voices and an enabler of free discourse generally, social media now appear to have problematic consequences in both authoritarian and democratic regimes.
The Kremlin Emboldened
Under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s ruling class again claims to represent a superior alternative to liberal democracy. How can we theorize this regime? Putinism is a form of autocracy that is conservative, populist, and personalistic. Its conservatism means that Putinism prioritizes maintaining the status quo and avoiding instability. Conservatism also overlaps with Putinism’s populism in crowd-pleasing broadsides against gay rights and feminism, but gives…
“The pursuit of national glory,” which M. Steven Fish counts among the features of Vladimir Putin’s “populism,” is emerging as central to the regime’s legitimation. Unlike previous instances of patriotic mobilization (around the Second Chechen War and the 2008 Georgia war), the current one appears to have evolved into a permanent structure sustaining Putin’s regime.…
This essay argues that the sources of the current revival of Russian authoritarianism lie in the country’s economic and political history. Among the major factors behind President Putin’s rise and consolidation of power, it cites an ideological overemphasis on the state that fosters hostility toward human rights and liberties; deeply rooted attitudes that cast the…
The Kremlin’s ability to maintain power and popularity despite an aging leader, an ailing economy, a rallying opposition, and many other domestic and international challenges is puzzling given current theories of authoritarianism. These theories focus on some combination of material interests, institutional engineering, and the charisma and skill of the dictator himself. A close examination…
The Russian system of personalized power is growing ever more dependent on the same strategies that proved useless in sustaining the USSR. While the system still has the potential to limp along, its survival tactics render the it progressively more dysfunctional. Among the circumstances weighing against the system’s survival are the unintended yet logical consequences…
This essay chronicles Vladimir Putin’s successful efforts to transform Russia from the flawed democracy of the 1990s to the fully fledged authoritarian regime it is today, with falsified elections; censorship of the major media outlets; and repression of the opposition. Yet there are growing numbers of Russians—especially among the young generation—who are prepared to stand…
After a presidential corruption scandal sparked peaceful mass protests leading to the impeachment and removal of the incumbent, South Koreans went to the polls to choose her successor. Was this drama a window on the troubles of South Korean democracy, or a testament to its strength and resilience?
Is pressing a troubled, intensely fragile “postconflict” country to hold elections a good idea? Somalia did so in late 2016 and early 2017, and the process was not pretty. But was it better than the alternative?
Liberal democracy can never put down truly firm roots in Asia unless and until the fundamentals of democratic constitutionalism take hold. There are seven practical imperatives that friends of constitutionalism in the region must pursue.
Democracy’s retreat is real, yet alarmist reports of a global demise or crisis of democracy are not warranted.
A review of China’s Eurasian Century? Political and Strategic Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative by Nadège Rolland.
Reports on elections in Albania, Angola, Congo (Brazzaville), Kenya, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Senegal, and Singapore.
Excerpts from an open letter calling for the release of democracy activists in Hong Kong; excerpts from the inaugural address of new South Korean president Moon Jae In.
Interview with Ivan Krastev; Ghanaian Scholar Honored; Electoral Integrity in Latin America; Russia’s Opposition in Focus; Scholars at Risk Director Recognized; NED’s International Forum
On July 13, imprisoned Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer, after long being denied appropriate medical treatment. A well-known essayist and poet, he was arrested just after the Tiananmen Square massacre for his support of the protesters. After spending a year and a half in prison, he continued…