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The Top 10 Journal of Democracy Essays of 2023

India’s democracy is in grave danger — and the prospect of its demise is a growing source of alarm as the country prepares for national elections next year. Meanwhile, Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine raged on for a second year, and Iran erupted into protests unlike any seen since the Islamic Republic’s founding.

The Journal of Demcracy covered these and other stories this year. Here are our 10 most-read essays of 2023:

1. The Authoritarian Roots of India’s Democracy (July)

To say that Indian democracy is backsliding misunderstands the country’s history and the challenges its faces: A certain authoritarianism is embedded in India’s constitution and political structures.

By Tripurdaman Singh

2. Why India’s Democracy is Dying (July)

Under Narendra Modi, India is maintaining the trappings of democracy while it increasingly harasses the opposition, attacks minorities, and stifles dissent. It can still reverse course, but the damage is mounting.

By Maya Tudor

3. Why Russia’s Democracy Never Began (July)

People obsess over where Russia’s democracy went wrong. The truth is it did not fail: Russia’s democratic transition never got off the starting blocks.

By Maria Snegovaya

4. China’s Threat to Global Democracy (January)

The Chinese Communist Party is deadly serious about its authoritarian designs, and it is bent on promoting them. It is time for the world’s democracies to get serious, too.

By Michael Beckley and Hal Brands

5. Armies and Autocrats: Why Putin’s Military Failed (January)

When Vladimir Putin launched a massive invasion of Ukraine, he expected an easy victory. Instead, the world has witnessed an object lesson in how a corrupt Russian regime crippled its own military power.

By Zoltan Barany

6. Is Iran on the Verge of Another Revolution? (April)

There have been numerous waves of protest against the country’s corrupt theocracy. This time is different. It is a movement to reclaim life. Whatever happens, there is no going back.

By Asef Bayat

7. AI and Catastrophic Risk (October)

AI with superhuman abilities could emerge within the next few years, and there is currently no guarantee that we will be able to control them. We must act now to protect democracy, human rights, and our very existence.

By Yoshua Bengio

8. In Europe, Democracy Erodes from the Right (January)

When ordinary voters are given a choice between democracy and partisan loyalty, who will put democracy first? Frighteningly, Europe harbors a deep reservoir of authoritarian potential.

By Milan W. Svolik, Johanna Lutz, Filip Milačić, and Elena Avramovska

9. Why Latin America’s Democracies Are Stuck (January)

This is the toughest time for Latin America’s democracies in decades. Democratic stagnation makes them ripe targets for illiberal populists and other would-be authoritarians who will feed the region’s worst vices.

By Scott Mainwaring and Aníbal Pérez-Liñán

10. How AI Threatens Democracy (October)

Generative AI can flood the media, internet, and even personal correspondence with misinformation—sowing confusion for voters and government officials alike. If we fail to act, mounting mistrust will polarize our societies and tear at our institutions.

By Sarah Kreps and Doug Kriner

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