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While scholars have devoted significant attention to religious institutions’ role in democratization, less attention has been given to their role in autocratization. Moreover, religious economy approaches suggest that religious institutions are flexible to offer whatever is of interest to the marketplace, but here the role the institutions played in the third wave of democratization suggests a stable commitment. I test the impact of religious monopoly and the historical pro-democratizing role on 52 dominant religious institutions’ stances towards autocratic practices related to regime survival in the post-third wave period. Logistic regression models reveal that stronger religious monopolies decrease the probability of opposing regime survival, while the historical pro-democratizing role of the dominant religious groups in the third wave increases the probability. Furthermore, when the religious market is highly monopolized, the commitment to a democratic role in the third wave is weak, and it is strengthened when there is intense religious competition.
Why does the ability of political leaders to control the bureaucracy vary? With strong meritocratic recruitment and tenure protections, Brazil appears an ideal case for successful bureaucratic resistance against political control. However, our analysis reveals how Bolsonaro overcame initial resistance by recalibrating strategies, ultimately dominating many key sectors of the bureaucracy. Drawing on over 100 interviews with public officials, we find that strategies of political control and bureaucratic resistance unfold in a dynamic, yet often predictable, pattern based on leaders' previous experiences and their ability to learn, adjust, and tighten their grip on the instruments of the state. The Bolsonaro administration transformed the regulatory framework and targeted individual state employees, reducing arenas of contestation and inducing public sector workers to remain silent, implementing the president’s policy preferences. We examine these control strategies in environmental agencies, their replication, and potential long-term consequences.
The incumbent-led subversion of democracy represents the most prevalent form of democratic backsliding in recent decades. A central puzzle in this mode of backsliding is why these incumbents enjoy popular support despite their actions against democracy. We address this puzzle using the case of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Although some Philippine analysts have speculated that his popularity was inflated due to social desirability bias (SDB) among survey respondents, there has been limited empirical examination. Our pre-registered list experiment surveys conducted in February/March 2021 detected SBD-induced overreporting at about 39 percentage points in face-to-face surveys and 28 percentage points in online surveys. We also found that the poor Mindanaoans, and those who believed their neighbors supported Duterte, were more likely to respond according to SDB. These possibly counter-intuitive results should be interpreted with caution because the survey was conducted during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, and the findings cannot necessarily be extrapolated to the other period of his presidency. Nevertheless, this study suggests that preference falsification could be an alternative explanation for the puzzle of popular incumbents in democratic backsliding.
How can political elites strengthen citizen commitment to democratic norms when democracy is under imminent assault? We report results from a pre-registered survey experiment on the persuasive effects of actual speeches given by prominent Republican politicians (Schwarzenegger, McConnell) shortly after the January 2020 insurrection at the U.S. capitol. Although both speeches were widely considered effective at the time, in a survey experiment among Republican voters, we find no impact of one-time exposure to these speeches on the endorsement of democracy, the acceptance of election losses, the rejection of political violence, or the relevance of democratic norms in hypothetical vote choices.
The article explores how macro-level political factors in conjunction with micro- and meso-level factors affect interest-group access to policymakers. The analysis is conducted based on two original data sets: a population ecology database of Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovenian national-level energy policy, healthcare and higher education organizations, and an online survey of these populations. Combining the two data sets allows us to investigate both polity-, population- and organizational-level factors. As the sampled countries have recently experienced democratic backsliding, we also test the effect of closing deliberative structures. The analysis reveals that the political process influences access: legislative fractionalization affects access positively, while the closure of deliberative structures has a negative effect. Nevertheless, the political contextual factors are mediated through variables at both the population (e.g. the size of latent constituency) and organizational (e.g. expertise provision) levels, as well as the meso-level of interorganizational cooperation.
There has been much recent debate over whether the European Union is or should be a ‘militant democratic’ actor in order to respond to democratic backsliding in EU member states. This article argues that the EU is a militant democracy in a specific and limited sense, but that this may be normatively undesirable from a democratic perspective. I first develop a definition of militant democracy that focuses on the militant democratic paradox. I argue that the strongest justifications for militant democracy require that two conditions are met: an ‘existential threat condition’ and a ‘necessity condition’. Next, I analyse four ways in which the European Union has been said to be empowered to act in a militant democratic fashion to combat democratic backsliding in EU member states. I show how some, though not all, of these warrant the label ‘militant democracy’. Moving from the descriptive to the normative analysis, I then consider whether the necessity condition can ever be met since there is always the possibility of non-militant responses through forms of EU disintegration. If we accept this argument, EU actors should prioritize robust non-militant measures where possible while pro-democratic member states should disassociate from frankly autocratic member states where non-militant measures fail.
This Element explores how in the Philippines a 'whiggish' narrative of democracy and good governance triumphing over dictatorship and kleptocracy after the 'people power' uprising against Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1986 was upended by strongman Rodrigo R. Duterte three decades later. Portraying his father's authoritarian rule as a 'golden age,' Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. succeeded Duterte by easily winning the 2022 presidential election, suggesting democratic backsliding will persist. A structuralist account of the inherent instability of the country's oligarchical democracy offers a plausible explanation of repeated crises but underplays agency. Strategic groups have pushed back against executive aggrandizement. Offering a 'structuration' perspective, presidential power and elite pushback are examined as is the reliance on political violence and the instrumentalization of mass poverty. These factors have recurrently combined to lead to the fall, restoration, and now steep decline of democracy in the Philippines.
This chapter reflects upon the functioning of the EU and the way it can be evaluated by using the comparative politics approach. Recent crises have increased the EU’s involvement in many policy areas, begging questions as to where the EU now stands as a political organization. Moreover, the greater involvement of the EU in policymaking also brings to the fore important questions about the democratic quality of the EU. The chapter first highlights the hybrid nature of the EU, combining features of an international organization with those of a state. It next discusses the debate about the democratic deficit, concerning the extent to which citizens can determine the EU’s policies and keep the EU accountable. The chapter subsequently discusses the rule of law crisis and the commitment of all EU member states to safeguard fundamental rights and values common to all the EU member states and enumerated in the Treaties. Concerns about democratic backsliding in some EU member states have resulted in procedures against member states to address the risk of breaching these values. As these procedures are highly political, tackling such breaches in this way is fraught with difficulties.
After coming to power in 2002, the AKP in Turkey took the country on a roller coaster from democratic reforms to authoritarian retreat. Starting off as a “conservative democratic” party with liberal tendencies, the AKP pivoted back to majoritarianism over the years. This chapter aims to make sense of this drastic shift and offers an account of the AKP’s swing from liberalism to electoralism. It discusses the AKP’s origins, its trajectory in government, and how it has taken a hegemonic direction despite its branding in its inception as a conservative party with an explicitly democratic agenda. To explain this transformation, the chapter identifies major forces inside the AKP, their diverging understandings of democracy, and describes how one wing prevailed over the other to take the party into a majoritarian direction. A key part of this process involves the rise of a dominant coalition under Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership. His growing command over organizational resources weakened his rivals with more liberal democratic orientations. This chapter traces these processes and their political consequences for Turkish democracy, with specific focus on Erdoğan’s righteous majoritarianism.
How does a democracy that has survived a close brush with authoritarianism start to recreate conditions of meaningful democratic political competition? What steps are to be taken, and in what order? Certain lessons can be gleaned from comparative experience with the challenges of “front-sliding”—that is, the process of rebuilding the necessary political, legal, epistemic, and sociological components of democracy. This essay maps out those challenges, examines the distinctive and difficult question of punishing individuals who have been drivers of democratic backsliding, and reflects on how to sequence different elements of front-sliding.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this book, the erosion of democracy has become pervasive. Countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa have seen the rise of executives with hegemonic aspirations. The threat of antisystemic populist outsiders has even spread to developed democracies in Europe and North America. In this chapter, I assess the theory outlined in the book in some of these cases. Doing so allows me to evaluate if, when, and how does the argument of this book work outside Colombia and Venezuela.
In this chapter, I develop a theory that focuses on the opposition’s strategic choices to fight the erosion of democracy. I define democratic erosion as a type of regime transition that happens over time, giving the opposition ample opportunity to respond, even after a leader willing to circumvent democracy has attained power. The strategies the opposition chooses and the goals it uses them for, I argue, are critical to understanding why some executives with hegemonic aspirations successfully erode democracy and others do not.
The erosion of democracy has become globally pervasive. New and old democracies around the world are now led by executives willing to undermine democratic institutions in order to achieve their policy goals. The booming literature on democratic backsliding has, for the most part, focused on the factors that drive these executives with hegemonic aspirations to power (Handlin 2017b; Norris and Inglehart 2019b) or the resources they have available to successfully undermine democratic institutions (Corrales 2018b; Levitsky and Ziblatt 2018b; Ginsburg and Huq 2019b; Weyland and Madrid 2019b). The underlying assumption of these theories is that popular and economically solvent heads of government in institutionally weak countries are almost always going to erode democracy, while their less popular and economically solvent counterparts in institutionally strong countries are almost always going to fail.
Up until the 1990s, Venezuela was one of the longest-running and most stable uninterrupted liberal democracies in Latin America. Today, it is an authoritarian regime. In nineteen years, Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, managed to destroy the system of checks and balances, end free and fair elections, and terminate political rights and civil liberties. The government has delayed and canceled elections, circumvented the authority of the elected legislature, imprisoned political opponents without trial, used lethal force against protesters, and banned opposition parties. How is it that Venezuela, historically one of the most robust democracies in the region, turned into the second most authoritarian country in Latin America?
In the previous chapter, I showed how the Venezuelan opposition’s strategic choices helped Hugo Chávez erode democracy. In this chapter, I develop the other part of my argument by highlighting the role of the Colombian opposition in preventing democratic erosion. Between 2002 and 2010, Alvaro Uribe tried to erode democracy in Colombia. Like Hugo Chávez (1999–2013) in Venezuela, he introduced several reforms that sought to reduce the checks on the executive and extend his time in office beyond a second term. He was polarizing, and willing to push as far as he could to increase the powers of the presidency and stay in office beyond a second term. His government harassed opposition members, journalists, and members of the courts and worked in tandem with illegal armed actors to systemically undermine those who criticized the president. Contrary to Chávez, however, Uribe was not able to turn Colombia’s democracy into a competitive authoritarian regime. Despite his attempts to undermine the independence of the courts and the fairness of elections, Colombia’s constitutional order remained fairly strong, and Uribe had to step down after his second term.
In the past two decades, democratically elected executives across the world have used their popularity to push for legislation that, over time, destroys systems of checks and balances, hinders free and fair elections, and undermines political rights and civil liberties. Using and abusing institutions and institutional reform, some executives have transformed their countries' democracies into competitive authoritarian regimes. Others, however, have failed to erode democracy. What explains these different outcomes? Resisting Backsliding answers this question. With a focus on the cases of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Alvaro Uribe in Colombia, the book shows that the strategies and goals of the opposition are key to understanding why some executives successfully erode democracy and others do not. By highlighting the role of the opposition, this book emphasizes the importance of agency for understanding democratic backsliding and shows that even weak oppositions can defeat strong potential autocrats.
In the past two decades, several democracies have slipped into democratic recession. Faced with economic or security crises, democratically elected executives in Latin America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa have used their popularity to push for legislation – particularly constitutional amendments – that, over time, destroys systems of checks and balances, hinders free and fair elections, and erodes political rights and civil liberties. Across the world, these heads of government have found ways to subvert democratic norms while simultaneously maintaining a democratic façade. Using and abusing elections and institutional reform, they are turning new and old democracies alike into competitive authoritarian regimes.
This chapter introduces the Indonesian case and the empirical puzzle, outlines the argument, discusses the book’s contributions to the study of Indonesian politics and representation in young democracies, presents data sources and methods, and introduces the structure of the book.
This chapter concludes the book. It summarizes the findings and discusses their implications for democracy in Indonesia and elsewhere. In addition, it addresses some open questions that intersect with the argument, most importantly with regard to democratic representation, participation and accountability.