January 2021

Volume 32, Issue 1

Mainstream Parties in Crisis


Why Strongmen Win in Weak States

While analysts of populism have focused on economic woes and “cultural backlash,” a thirst for the restoration of order may better explain the appeal of authoritarian populists in fragile democracies where governance is falling short.

The End of the Backsliding Paradigm

Like the “transition paradigm” before it, the concept of democratic backsliding threatens to flatten our perceptions of complex political realities. Examples from East-Central Europe illustrate the ambiguous dynamics at play in many troubled democracies.

Japanese Democracy After Shinzo Abe

The retirement of the country’s longest-serving prime minister leaves in place a “continuity administration,” and with it some troubling questions about whether liberal democracy’s “soft guardrails” are being eroded.

Sri Lanka: The Return to Ethnocracy

The return to power, via elections, of the Rajapaksa family signals the consolidation of a Sinhalese Buddhist ethnocracy. But there are reasons to hope it will not take a turn toward full despotism.


The Arab Spring at 10: Kings or People?

A decade ago, Arab peoples stood up and sought to replace their rulers with a more democratic political project. But Arab autocrats have a project of their own. Can the people gain ground in the struggle for self-government, or will their rulers bear it away?

Election Watch

Reports on elections in Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burma, Côte d’Ivoire, Georgia, Guinea, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Seychelles, Tanzania.

Documents on Democracy

Iranian women’s rights activist Shaparak Shajarizadeh’s speech accepting the Morris B. Abram award; the World Uyghur Congress statement for the UN’s 75th anniversary; call by NGOs for the release of human-rights advocate Ramy Kamel in Egypt; NGO statement on the police response to Thai prodemocracy protests; statement of support for LGBTI activists in Poland; statement…