National Populism in Power: the Consequences for Fundamental Rights

Jordi Vaquer in Idees:

The world currently finds itself immersed in the so-called “third wave” of authoritarianism. Since the start of the twenty-first century, and especially over the last five years, more and more countries have been losing the characteristics of a democracy and becoming hybrid  — Hybrid regimes combine characteristics of both democratic and authoritarian regimes. The term has been used to define a range of governments, including the electoral autocracies of the 1960s and 1970s (such as those in Mexico, Singapore, Senegal and Taiwan) and the so-called “illiberal democracies” of today. See L. Diamond (2002), “Elections Without Democracy: Thinking About Hybrid Regimes” in Journal of Democracy 13-2, pages 21-35. or openly autocratic regimes. For the first time since 2001, there are more autocracies (specifically, 92 countries, which together are home to 54% of the world’s population) than democracies, while 35% of the world’s population lives in countries governed by increasingly authoritarian regimes — AV ‘Autocratization Surges, Resistance Grows’ in Democracy Report 2020, VDem Institute, University of Gothenburg, March 2020.. The positive progress made in countries such as the Gambia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Armenia and Malaysia are exceptions within a global framework that is less and less favourable to liberal democracies with each day that passes.

The traditional means by which authoritarian regimes are installed, such as coups d’état and civil conflict, have played an important role in this new wave of authoritarianism (Thailand and Egypt are both excellent examples). However, the chief characteristic of this new political development is that the primary vector of authoritarianism is elected governments, which despite their clear disdain for the mechanisms that serve to control and balance power, still manage to gain and retain popular support in competitive elections. Moreover, they are doing so, and herein lies the great novelty — In the 1990s and 2000s, hybrid regimes were usually the result of incomplete transitions toward democracy and were mostly more open than the dictatorships that had preceded them. See T. Carothers (2002), “The End of the Transition Paradigm” in Journal of Democracy 13-1, pages 1-21., in countries with a relatively consolidated democratic history and a tradition of pluralism.

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