The Rise of Theocratic Democracy

Issue Date October 2023
Volume 34
Issue 4
Page Numbers 66–79
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Many scholars and prodemocracy organizations have documented a global democratic recession that has been occurring since the mid-2000s. Yet the reason for this democratic decay remains disputed. This article argues that the global democratic recession has coincided with, and can be largely attributed to, the emergence of an antidemocratic form of religious majoritarianism that has swept across the world since the turn of the century. The author calls this development “theocratic democracy.” Theocratic democracy results when religious groups and holders of state power strike an unspoken grand bargain: Political leaders back majoritarian religious groups, and these groups in return use their spiritual authority to back the political leaders. The rise of theocratic democracy has had devastating consequences for democracy.

About the Author

Nilay Saiya is associate professor of public policy and global affairs at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He is author of Weapon of Peace: How Religious Liberty Combats Terrorism (2018) and The Global Politics of Jesus: A Christian Case for Church-State Separation (2022).

View all work by Nilay Saiya