The Surprising Instability of Competitive Authoritarianism

Issue Date October 2018
Volume 29
Issue 4
Page Numbers 129-135
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After many countries that had embarked upon transitions in the 1980s and 1990s failed to become consolidated democracies, political scientists highlighted the widespread emergence of hybrid regimes, which combine authoritarian and democratic features. Scholars argued such regimes were stable, with some positing that quasi-democratic institutions actually strengthened authoritarianism. But an examination of competitive authoritarianism (CA)—the most prominent of these hybrid types—suggests instability is the norm. Of 35 regimes identified as having been CA between 1990 and 1995, most have either democratized or been replaced by new autocracies. Furthermore, quasi-democratic institutions often contributed to CA’s breakdown. In short, hybrid regimes have not become a new form of stable nondemocratic rule.

About the Author

Christopher Carothers is a Ph.D. candidate and Ashford Fellow in the Department of Government at Harvard University. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal Asia, Foreign Affairs, and elsewhere.

View all work by Christopher Carothers