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Democracy in Decline

How Washington Can Reverse the Tide

A heavy hand: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in France, October 2015. VINCENT KESSLER / REUTERS

In the decade following the Cold War, democracy flourished around the world as never before. In recent years, however, much of this progress has steadily eroded. Between 2000 and 2015, democracy broke down in 27 countries, among them Kenya, Russia, Thailand, and Turkey. Around the same time, several other global “swing states”—countries that, thanks to their large populations and economies, could have an outsize impact on the future of global democracy—also took a turn for the worse. In nearly half of them, political liberties, as measured by the U.S. nonprofit Freedom House, contracted.

Meanwhile, many existing authoritarian regimes have become even less open, transparent, and responsive to their citizens. They are silencing online dissent by censoring, regulating, and arresting those they perceive as threats. Many of them are attempting to control the Internet by passing laws, for example, that require foreign companies to store citizens’ data within the home country’

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