A crackdown on the opposition, followed by sham parliamentary elections in July 2018, has deepened and extended the decades-long personalist dictatorship of Hun Sen.
Zimbabwe’s first elections since the November 2017 coup that ousted nonagenarian dictator Robert Mugabe were marred by the abuse of state resources, electoral irregularities, and a tragic bout of postelection violence that saw soldiers use deadly force against civilians.
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.
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.
How are trends in global democratization likely to be shaped by the distribution of such key structural factors as income, ethnic or religious diversity, and the quality of the state?
The hegemonic-party systems of Taiwan and Mexico began to loosen in the 1980s, eventually yielding to democracy. Malaysia’s ruling party, by contrast, has tightened the reins of power in the face of increasing opposition.
Despite losing the popular vote, Malaysia’s long-ruling Barisan Nasional triumphed again in the country’s 2013 elections, disappointing an emboldened opposition that had high hopes after a strong performance in 2008.
President Rafael Correa, now entering his third term, has built a curious form of populist-authoritarian regime. He champions redistributionism and a kind of technocratic leftism while assaulting the traditional left along with such mainstays of a liberal society as the freedom of the press.
The left-populist authoritarianism that is taking hold across a swath of Latin America bears many resemblances to the rightist populism that was once widespread in the region. There are signs, however, that the leftist variant will be an even bigger problem for liberal democracy.