Under Putin’s rule, Russian policy has considerably hardened both domestically and internationally. It has gone from a mixture of oligarchy, democracy, and anarchy to a regime of autocracy with some fascist features, and from an effort to imitate and join the West to a verbal aggressiveness towards the United States and an effort to reassert Russia’s domination over its former empire. An important link between the two evolutions is to be found in the post-imperial nostalgia of the Russian population, in the neo-imperial ambition of its leaders, and in their fear of the spread of “color revolutions” among their neighbors.
Unlike in 2003, Argentina’s 2007 presidential election brought few surprises. Peronist candidate Cristina Kirchner—nominated after her husband, Nestor chose not to seek re-election—won easily. This victory was rooted in both the strong performance of Nestor Kirchner’s government and the weakness of the non-Peronist opposition. The article examines the impact of the Kirchner government on Argentine democracy. It argues that, notwithstanding Kirchner’s concentration of power, the regime remained fully democratic, and that in some areas, its quality improved. The article then examines two problems confronting Argentina’s democracy: the collapse of opposition parties and the persistent weakness of political and economic institutions.
Brazil under Lula offers a test case of how politicians and societal interests in developing countries react when economic growth and new possibilities change the name of the game from shock and scarcity to boom and prosperity. Contrary to what a reader of the dominant theoretical work on democratization might expect, Brazil’s experience of political democratization and economic liberalization under the adverse economic conditions of the 1980s and 1990s did not bring about a neoliberal “assault on the state.”
With the election of Rafael Correa in 2006, Ecuador joined the ranks of Latin American countries that have taken the “Left Turn” in national politics. Correa views his presidency as an opportunity to effect profound political change by convoking a constituent assembly to write a new constitution. In the course of campaigning for the constituent assembly, Correa constructed a powerful hyper-plebiscitary presidency—a mode of governance marked by the president’s recurrent appeals to public opinion and special elections that enhances the legitimacy of the executive at the expense of congress. Using the informal and formal powers of his office, Correa was able to govern “over the heads” of existing institutions and greatly debilitate what remained of the political opposition.
Freedom appeared in a state of decline during 2007, according to the authoritative Freedom in the World survey issued annually by Freedom House. The most significant development was the decline in freedom in a number of strategically significant countries: Russia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, and Venezuela. Globally, many countries showed evidence of problems with freedom of association, rule of law, effective governance, and corruption. Freedom House also pointed to a growing “pushback” against democracy in such countries as Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and China. Dictators are employing increasingly sophisticated methods to marginalize opposition parties, censor the press, and marginalize civil society.
This paper examines on a global scale how important it is for young democracies to deliver economic welfare to win the hearts of their citizens. A decoupling of popular support for democratic form of government from economic performance is believed to be conducive to the consolidation of young democracies. We found an encouraging global pattern that clearly shows evaluations of economic condition are relatively unimportant in explaining level of popular support for democracy. However, high-income East Asian countries register a glaring exception to this global generalization, suggesting that their distinctive trajectory of regime transition has imposed on democratic regimes an additional burden of sustaining a record of miraculous economic growth of the past.
We can hope that China’s autocratic rulers will take the initiative to grant their people political rights, but we cannot rely on them to do so. A democratic transition in China is most likely to occur through the growth of popular democratic forces. Our real hope lies with them. Our sacred duty is to nurture their growth.
“Frontier Africa” captures the interplay of risk, reward and uncertainty of political and economic life. Economic growth and political advances are halted by disputed elections; high corruption erodes the capacity and legitimacy of state institutions; China is now a major actor that can undercut human rights and democracy efforts; and counter-terrorism emboldens autocratic rulers. In the end, basic needs of the masses of the people for healthcare, education, jobs, and physical security are unmet. The tragic aftermath of the 2007 presidential vote in Kenya demonstrates the continuing significance of personal rule, weak institutions, and electoral systems subject to partisan manipulation.
Tolerance for presidential misrule and indefinite presidential tenure may have worn thin in Africa’s democratizing polities, but with voters still caring most about beating the twin scourges of underdevelopment and economic marginalization, belief in the beneficent uses of preponderant executive power continues to run strong. African polities must move beyond the fixation with “strong” leadership and focus instead on building credible and effective institutions at both the national and local levels. If anything, an imperial presidency magnifies the costs of having an incompetent or bad leader at the helm.
Although legislative performance is uneven across the African continent, the legislature is emerging as a “player” in some countries. It has begun to initiate and modify laws to a degree never seen during the era of neopatrimonial rule or even in the early years after the return of multiparty politics. And in some countries (Kenya, Malawi, and Nigeria), though not in others (Namibia and Uganda), it has blocked presidents from changing the constitution to repeal limits on presidential terms. In short, legislatures in Africa are beginning to matter. That said, there is no uniformity across Africa and we are only beginning to understand and explain the variations.
Governance in Africa is in a state of transition, or some would say, suspension. Two powerful trends vie for dominance. One is the longstanding organization of African politics and states around autocratic personal rulers; highly centralized and overpowering presidencies; and hierarchical, informal networks of patron-client relations that draw their symbolic and emotional glue from ethnic bonds. The other is the surge since 1990 of democratic impulses, principles, and institutions. From the experience of a small but growing number of better-functioning African democracies, we know that the continent is not condemned to perpetual misrule. The challenge now is for international donors to join with Africans in demanding that their governments be truly accountable.
Using a newly constructed dataset of all U.S. expenditures in foreign assistance channeled via the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from 1990 through 2005, this essay traces the growth of global democracy assistance since the end of the Cold War. It shows that what had begun as a largely regional effort in Latin America in the late 1980s has grown into a world-wide effort, expanding in magnitude and diversity, branching out into areas such as “good governance” (essentially decentralization and the fight against corruption) that were given little attention in the early 1990s.
European governments are spending more on political aid and democratization in particular. The ways in which this money is being spent have evolved. This has corrected many shortcomings of previous European democracy-promotion policies but also leaves many doubts about the effectiveness of this funding. In particular, it remains uncertain how pertinent the strong European focus on governance and social policies is to broad, systemic-level political change. Some contours of a “European” approach to democracy exist, but significant differences remain between the policies of different member states, and simplistic differentiation from US policies should be resisted.