Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism

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Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semi-Authoritarianism

By Marina Ottaway
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2003
256 pp. $44.00

In this important new study, Ottaway argues that countries that combine elements of authoritarianism and democracy are not best understood as imperfect democracies or transitional governments. Instead, she sees them as deliberately organized and durable regimes that adopt the formal trappings of democracy but allow little real competition for power. Kazakhstan, Morocco, Peru, Singapore, and Malaysia are examples of a growing number of semi-authoritarian regimes that can be remarkably stable, yet are also prone to unpredictable political and leadership succession crises. Ottaway argues that these hybrid regimes require a rethinking of assumptions about the spread and promotion of democracy. These are not countries that will respond easily to outside carrots and sticks. Their civil societies tend to be disconnected from politics, and the creation of more open civic space can lead to ethnic nationalism (as in Yugoslavia), or religious fundamentalism (as in Egypt). The challenge for democracy promoters is to focus more on deep socioeconomic sources of semi-authoritarianism and adjust the timeline for democratic progress.

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