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Volume 16, - Issue 4: DEMOCRACY PROMOTION BEFORE AND AFTER role of the US, see Chaulia, 'Democratization, NGOs, and “colour revolutions”'. See in particular O'Donnell and Schmitter, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule.
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Commentators and politicians often repeat the mantra that democracy takes time because a culture of accountability and transparency does not develop overnight. Skeptics of democracy support often point out that democratic culture cannot be created in short order. This insight leaves some room for optimism. They argue that they have developed a new method for identifying not only sudden but also gradual episodes of autocratization.


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This measure is designed to capture the rate and various dimensions of democratic decline. Consider, for example, that their measure combines indices reporting freedom of association, freedom of expression, and free and fair elections.

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Democratization scholars and experts on Central and Eastern Europe might take issue with this lumping together of qualitatively different autocratization processes happening in their region. Bulgaria has featured continuously but subtly deteriorating rule of law, media independence, and quality of national governance. In Poland, by contrast, in only two years, the ruling party, Law and Justice PiS , passed far-reaching reforms to politicize the media, clamped down on civil society, and compromised the separation of powers by using the PiS-dominated parliament to control the election of the members of the National Judicial Council responsible for appointing judges nationwide.

So the PiS has arguably been acting quickly and changing the formal rules. They understate the impact of regional diffusion or demonstration effects learning by active teaching and by modeling the strategy and tactics of similar groups abroad.

How to Support Democracy and Human Rights in Asia - Center for American Progress

Scholars of Central and Eastern Europe have done a lot of work to empirically document and theorize such dynamics; some of this work suggests that the pace and form of regime change are shaped by when in the wave of autocratization a country experiences regime change. Such an approach might lead one to hypothesize that, as an early mover in this wave of autocratization, Hungary might have undergone slow and clandestine democratic erosion because the ruling government was inventing a model of regime change while domestic and especially international opponents struggled to react.

In contrast, in a country like Poland, whose autocratization came later in the wave, the government was positioned to quickly and boldly appropriate a well-formed model of regime change. These two processes are not conceptually separate, and their overlap is an important empirical issue given widespread concerns about the quality of democracies born in the third wave of democratization. If gradual democratic recession eventually leads to democratic breakdown, how many contemporary democracies are close to the point of regime change? Moreover, it is unclear that the endurance of poor-quality democracies is reason for optimism, given that such democracies are associated with a range of suboptimal outcomes including inequality and conflict that are unlikely to engender mass support for democracy in the future.

The authors also assume that because recent autocratization has been more gradual, democratic actors may remain strong enough to resist. Scholars focusing on Central and Eastern Europe who compare Poland and Hungary might arrive at exactly the opposite conclusion: the PiS in Poland accomplished in its first two years in office reforms that took the Hungarian ruling party Fidesz close to six years, and yet pro-democratic civic and political actors remain more vibrant in Poland than in Hungary.

That is, resistance has been stronger in the case where erosion has been less, not more, incremental. Experts on Central and Eastern Europe might speculate that forceful democratic erosion generates more resistance, whereas a more slow-paced increase in autocracy can lull domestic and international opposition into complacency while simultaneously ensuring that, in each of the battles or elections to come, the playing field is less and less even. Tsveta Petrova is a lecturer in political science at Columbia University, whose research focuses on democracy, democratization, and democracy promotion in Central and Eastern Europe.

Turkey was not a consolidated democracy even before the ruling Justice and Development Party AKP assumed power in Between and , the AKP undertook key democratic reforms aimed at accession to the European Union EU , a goal that united many Islamists, liberals, Kurds, Alevis, and secularists. Between and , the AKP ended tutelary democracy in Turkey by infiltrating the judiciary with Gulenist cadres and collaborating with them to oust military officials through sham trials.

Yet these violations of democratic norms often went unnoticed by most domestic actors as well as the international community including the EU , which often viewed these steps as mere setbacks on the path to becoming a consolidated democracy. Over the last decade, the party has steered the country toward competitive authoritarianism by seeking to capture state institutions, eradicate all checks and balances, and crack down on fundamental freedoms. Many scholars have argued that this trend was not an authoritarian turn but an instance of authoritarian continuity in the sense that, even before , the party strived to centralize executive authority, co-opt media outlets, and suppress dissent to the best of its ability.

The failed coup attempt in and the added pretext of heightened security concerns provided further impetus in this direction. By , this process was largely complete to the extent that almost all television channels and print media outlets have come under direct or indirect government control. This consequential referendum marked the first time that opposition forces in Turkey raised election-rigging charges against the regime, albeit without any tangible results.

The judiciary, which already had been highly politicized by a constitutional referendum, was firmly placed under the control of government cadres by massive purges after the failed coup attempt. Along its clandestine path to autocracy, Turkey maintained the long-standing illusion of being a consolidating democracy even as the seeds of authoritarianism were sown.

The ruling party found a sudden shift to autocracy neither desirable nor feasible for at least four reasons. Fourth, the internal composition of the AKP itself was an important factor. Yet such gradualism is also more serious in the sense that it divides the opposition by forming multiple ad-hoc alliances along the way.

Enough! Electoral Fraud, Collective Action Problems, and Post-Communist Colored Revolutions

This approach can leave in its wake a highly weakened and fragmented opposition by the time autocratization is almost complete, meaning that there are often very few channels left for the opposition to express its dissent and bring about meaningful change. This debate facilitated by Richard Youngs and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is both important and timely. We are grateful for the insightful commentaries by our often-friendly critics, and we hope our response can shed further light on the most salient issues facing both scholars and policy practitioners.

We fully agree with Tom Daly that much more attention needs to be paid to understanding the legal means by which autocratization happens today. One of the most important findings in our study is that 70 percent of autocratization efforts are made by legal means see figure 3 in the original article.

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We fully acknowledge the fair critique by Tsveta Petrova who pointed out the absence of horizontal checks in our estimate of autocratization processes. We made this choice to offer a lean way of measuring autocratization that focuses on the core electoral element of democracy.


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Nevertheless, we agree that horizontal accountability mechanisms need to be studied to understand autocratization better. We also think this discussion is an impetus for the disciplines of political science and law to work closer together in future analyses and a call for the policy community to pay greater attention to these aspects going forward. We agree that much more talent must be employed to analyze the roles that these and other factors play in the changes political regimes undergo.

Our analysis and the insights provided by our critics all point to the same conclusion: the dynamics and mechanisms of erosion in democracies demand much more attention. We also wholeheartedly agree with Daly that it matters which countries become more autocratic. Some countries are much more important because they serve as international and regional players that carry great influence over others, and because they are so populous that even domestic changes affect a large swath of people around the world.

Petrova stresses that it is important to identify which democracies break down at some point. We disagree with her that we cannot speak to that issue. We co-wrote a study called Regimes of the World , which used V-Dem data to create an ordinal measure of regime types. The question of whether a slow, gradual form of autocratization means that there is often more effective resistance, or that leaders in such countries like Hungary are shrewder and thus avoid resistance, is important.

The contrast between Poland and Hungary is telling. It is quite possible, and makes theoretical sense, that a swifter, more radical change would provoke fiercer resistance more easily. Given that such organizations are typically not constructed for swift action, this insight provides some room for optimism. When autocratic advances happen at a faster pace, this tends to mobilize domestic pro-democratic actors more readily as in Poland.

When autocratic processes unfold more slowly, international organizations have more time to respond. This debate has shown—once more—that autocratization has emerged as a key challenge of the twenty-first century. The participating scholars have outlined many new avenues for future research.

All supporters of democracy academics and practitioners alike should collaborate more to meet the contemporary challenges that democracy faces. Follow the conversation— Sign up to receive email updates when comments are posted to this article. Since the inception of democracy, the dichotomy between rich and poor or black and white people has pivot societies and nations against each other. In this context, the US is a viable example, but the pattern is applicable to the rest of Western countries. There are signs everywhere of an intentional effort from traditional democratic institutions to keep white supremacy in control of real power at the cost of minorities, and it is bent on reversing this demographic tide.

Thereby, courts and Legislative bodies are no longer the guardian of the West values; the impartiality is gone in the last bastion of West democracies. Federal Election Commission ref 1. In the court admitted that gerrymandering ref 2 is incompatible with democratic principles, and it allowed it to continue.

Racism is the common thread of the nationalist movement Trump brought out from the shadows to the front of political discourse. Political change has never been as difficult as it is now. It is time for voters to make changes from the bottom up activism and elect a new generation of leaders across the political spectrum.

Take a chance with women and young men candidates, is the year for women to break political ceilings. Ref 1- The court opened the floodgates of campaign spending. Such that, a small number of wealthy individuals are bankrolling the thickness of that spending. They are buying access and the language that appears in bills that become laws. Ref 2- Partisan gerrymandering from either political party is an anti-democratic practice.

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It sets boundaries of electoral district to favour specific interests. Political parties are drifting against democracy. The last question: How Ms. Lindberg correlate the character of human governance with the EDI and V-Dem data to approximately measure the erosion of democracy? Thank you for this important discussion. Empirical study and broadening the components included in future work should help domestic and international actors fashion effective preventive measures.

That said, scientific inquiry and logic alone may lead us astray. For example, the assumption that gradual or incremental steps toward autocracy will allow sufficient time for international and multilateral institutions to take preventive action seems misplaced. There is a growing struggle in Asia between authoritarian forces and the people attempting to stand up for human rights and democracy. From the crackdown on mass protests in Hong Kong, to genocide in Myanmar, to extrajudicial killings and attacks on government critics in the Philippines, to the detention of more than 1 million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps in western China, the situation can appear bleak.

While these and other abuses of power playing out across Asia are not unique to the region, the continued deterioration of human rights and democracy in Asia could have disastrous consequences, not only for the region but also for the United States. Faced with mounting challenges to universal rights in Asia, U.