Subject: Authoritarianism

July 2019, Volume 30, Issue 3

Egyptian Youth’s Digital Dissent

The military-backed regime of President al-Sisi seems secure, but study of the Egyptian internet reveals that the regime has failed to win over the young.

April 2019, Volume 30, Issue 2

Confronting Authoritarianism

In May 2018, the people of Malaysia transcended distinctions of class, religion, and ethnicity in order to vote for democracy and reform against a long-ruling party riddled with corruption.

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October 2018, Volume 29, Issue 4

Understanding Authoritarian Regionalism

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.

July 2018, Volume 29, Issue 3

Modernization and Authoritarianism

Embracing a new model of capitalist authoritarianism, a number of nondemocratic regimes have made startling gains in state capacity, posing a new challenge to the appeal and advance of liberal democracy.

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October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: What Is Putinism?

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…

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: Putinism After Crimea

“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.…

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: Why Putinism Arose

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…

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: How Putin Wins Support

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…

October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: Paradoxes of Decline

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…

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October 2017, Volume 28, Issue 4

The Kremlin Emboldened: Putin Is Not Russia

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…

July 2017, Volume 28, Issue 3

Turkmenistan: Grasping for Legitimacy

Turkmenistan’s authoritarian president Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov attempted to use sham democratic elections in February 2017 to bolster his legitimacy both at home and abroad. 

April 2017, Volume 28, Issue 2

Jordan and Morocco: The Palace Gambit

Two of the Arab world’s more liberal regimes, the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco, are sometimes said to be evolving toward democracy. Is this true, and what are the longer-term prospects for these two monarchies?

April 2017, Volume 28, Issue 2

Nicaragua: A Return to Caudillismo

With the ruling FSLN’s one-sided triumph in the November 2016 elections, Nicaraguan democracy underwent further erosion. The emerging authoritarian party-state, far from being a leftist revolutionary government, is becoming a neopatrimonial dictatorship in an older Latin American style.

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January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

The Signs of Deconsolidation

Political scientists have long assumed that “democratic consolidation” is a one-way street, but survey evidence of declining support for democracy from across the established democracies suggests that deconsolidation is a genuine danger.

January 2017, Volume 28, Issue 1

Turkey: How the Coup Failed

When parts of the Turkish military attempted a coup in July 2016, the competitive authoritarian AKP regime was able to bring both its competitive and its authoritarian features to bear, stopping the coup and launching a crackdown.

October 2016, Volume 27, Issue 4

Transition in China? More Likely Than You Think

Evidence from social science and history suggests that China is entering a “transition zone” that will threaten its capacity to maintain both authoritarian rule and high levels of economic growth.

October 2016, Volume 27, Issue 4

When Dictators Die

What political consequences can we expect when aging dictators die while in power? A fifth of the world’s autocracies are facing such a possibility, but the evidence shows that this may not augur well for democracy.

July 2016, Volume 27, Issue 3

The Assault on Postcommunist Courts

A number of countries in East-Central Europe are facing a grave crisis of constitutional democracy. As their governments seek to undermine the institutional limits on their power, constitutional courts have become a central target.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

The Authoritarian Threat: Weaknesses of Autocracy Promotion

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.

January 2016, Volume 27, Issue 1

Ethiopia: Silencing Dissent

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.

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July 2015, Volume 26, Issue 3

Europe and Azerbaijan: The End of Shame

A few years ago, Europe’s most important intergovernmental human-rights institution, the Council of Europe, crossed over to the dark side. Like Dorian Gray, the dandy in Oscar Wilde’s story of moral decay, it sold its soul. And as with Dorian Gray, who retained his good looks, the inner decay of the Council of Europe remains hidden from view.

April 2015, Volume 26, Issue 2

The Authoritarian Resurgence: Iran Abroad

The Iranian regime has sought to recast conventional principles of human rights and political participation by forging alliances with like-minded regimes and by broadcasting its narrative to an international audience.

January 2015, Volume 26, Issue 1

China’s Challenge

As China’s power grows, will it seek to remake the world in its authoritarian image? For now, China shows no such missionary impulse, but the ways in which it pursues its interests can still threaten the fate of democracy.

April 2014, Volume 25, Issue 2

The Freedom House Survey for 2013: The Democratic Leadership Gap

Civil-liberties scores have notably declined over the past several years, while political-rights scores have slightly improved—perhaps because modern authoritarians have begun to adopt subtler means of repression. Overall, however, freedom experienced a global decline for the eighth straight year in 2013.

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July 2013, Volume 24, Issue 3

Transforming the Arab World’s Protection-Racket Politics

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.

July 2013, Volume 24, Issue 3

Algeria versus the Arab Spring

Not  only  did  the  Algerian  regime  survive  the  “Arab  Spring,”  it  hardly deviated from its normal methods of authoritarian governance—patronage, pseudodemocratization, and effective use of the security apparatus.

July 2013, Volume 24, Issue 3

Jordan: The Ruse of Reform

The Hashemite monarchy still fails to understand the challenges that threaten Jordan’s political order. The old playbook of limited, manipulated reform is no longer enough, but key players fail to realize it.

April 2013, Volume 24, Issue 2

Armies and Revolutions

A key factor in determining the success or failure of revolutions is how the national armed forces react. What are the keys to making accurate predictions about what the soldiers will do when the fate of a regime hangs in the balance?

April 2013, Volume 24, Issue 2

Defending Democracy Within the EU

Should Brussels intervene to protect democracy within EU member states? Does Europe have the tools it would need to do so effectively? Recent developments in Hungary and Romania show the importance of addressing these questions sooner rather than later.

April 2013, Volume 24, Issue 2

Southeast Asia: Sources of Regime Support

Data from the latest wave of the Asian Barometer Survey show commonalities and variations in the sources of regime support in Southeast Asian countries. Most regimes—democracies and nondemocracies alike—draw political legitimacy from perceptions of effective and upright governance.

January 2013, Volume 24, Issue 1

China at the Tipping Point? Goodbye to Gradualism

China is heading toward a tipping point, with two likely scenarios for how a political opening will come about. Most Chinese intellectuals think that only gradualism—“slow and steady,” step-by-step reform—can offer China a safe and feasible path toward liberal democracy. But they are wrong. Instead of “taking it slow,” China should shun gradualism and opt…

January 2013, Volume 24, Issue 1

China at the Tipping Point? The Rising Cost of Stability

Although the Chinese Communist Party has tried to institutionalize the political system in the reform era, such efforts have been hampered by the Maoist legacy. To cope with challenges from the society, the CCP mainly relies on a highly centralized and resource-intensive weiwen system, and shows little respect for institutional differentiation and formal procedures.

January 2013, Volume 24, Issue 1

China at the Tipping Point? The Turn Against Legal Reform

Over the past decade, Chinese authorities have turned against many of the legal reforms they themselves had enacted in the late 20th century. Lawyers have come under increased pressure. Political campaigns warning against rule-of-law norms have rippled through the courts. And central authorities have massively increased funding for extralegal institutions aimed at curtailing and suppressing…

January 2013, Volume 24, Issue 1

China at the Tipping Point? The Troubled Periphery

The response of the Chinese state (and of Chinese society at large) to the problems of the country’s periphery—Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia, as well as hundreds of counties, prefectures, and townships in Sichuan, Qinghai, Yunnan, and other areas—is piling more tension and misery upon the populations there, but it is not undermining state power.

January 2013, Volume 24, Issue 1

China at the Tipping Point? From “Fart People” to Citizens

In recent years, Chinese netizens have shown boundless creativity and ingenuity in expressing themselves despite government restrictions on online speech. Will new political discourse give birth to a new political identity? Are new forms of networked communication enhancing opportunities for social change and helping to move China toward a “threshold” for political transformation?

July 2012, Volume 23, Issue 3

African Elections: Two Divergent Trends

Regular elections have become a fixture of political life throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but there are now “two Africas” in this regard: one where elections bring the blessings of greater political openness and competition, and another where elections are, in effect, one more tool that authoritarians use to retain power.

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January 2012, Volume 23, Issue 1

Morocco: Outfoxing the Opposition

Morocco was not immune to the 2011 upheavals in the Arab world, but the country’s monarchy deftly managed the crisis through cosmetic constitutional reform.

July 2011, Volume 22, Issue 3

Belarus: A Tale of Two Elections

Strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s suspiciously lopsided 2010 electoral victory—and subsequent crackdown on dissent—may seem like a repeat of the events of 2006, but much has changed in the interval, and his regime is much more precarious today.

July 2008, Volume 19, Issue 3

ASEAN’s “Black Swans”

Can regionalism help to redress the uneven spread and internal weaknesses of democracy in Southeast Asia? Unforeseen events in the region and positive political entrepreneurship may yet transform ASEAN into a force for democracy.