The New Competitive Authoritarianism

Issue Date January 2020
Volume 31
Issue 1
Page Numbers 51-65
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Competitive authoritarianism—in which the coexistence of meaningful democratic institutions and serious incumbent abuse yields electoral competition that is real but unfair—is alive and well, nearly two decades after the concept was introduced in the Journal of Democracy. This is surprising, because the Western liberal hegemony of the 1990s, which led many full autocracies to become competitive authoritarian, has waned. Competitive politics persists because many autocrats lack the coercive and organizational capacity to consolidate hegemonic rule, and because the alternatives to multiparty elections lack legitimacy across the globe. Recently, new competitive authoritarian regimes have emerged in countries with strong democratic institutions, raising concerns about the diffusion of competitive authoritarianism to the West.