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Still, there is no doubt that the skies have darkened considerably for liberal forces over the past decade, and that there are growing signs of a looming democratic recession and authoritarian resurgence. Acceptance of liberty as the foundation of legitimate government, and of an international system built on liberal ideas — is under greater threat than at any point since the fall of the Berlin Wall 27 years ago.

Beyond the halting of the positive momentum between 1974 and 2004 and the erosion in the number of democracies in the world, the international system has experienced a growing rate of democratic breakdowns in the last decade and a half. Between 2000 and 2015, nearly 18 per cent of democracies broke down — as a result of coups, rigged elections or other incremental degradations of democratic procedures — compared to far lower democratic failure rates of only 8 per cent in the period 1984–93 and 11 per cent in 1994–2003. Many of these have taken place in large, strategically important states, including Pakistan (1999) — which analysts saw as a harbinger of future decline — Russia (2000), Nigeria (2003), Venezuela (2005), Thailand (2005 and 2014), the Philippines (2007), Kenya (2007), Ukraine (2012), and Turkey (2016).

After a decade of nearly uninterrupted gains in freedom outpacing losses by a ratio of at least two to one, the trend was broken in 2006, and since then more countries have consistently declined in freedom than improved. By 2014, Freedom House noted that nearly twice as many countries suffered declines as registered gains, with the number of gains hitting its lowest point since the nine-year erosion began. This pattern held true across geographical regions. Net declines worsened further in 2015, with no fewer than 72 countries — nearly one in three in the world — recording deterioration in aggregate scores of civil liberties and political rights. Again, the erosion is compounded by the fact that a troubling number of backsliding states are either large, economically powerful, or regionally influential ones — including Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Russia, Turkey, Thailand, and Venezuela — or are members of the EU itself, notably Hungary, Poland, and Romania.

Just as disturbing as the statistical declines is an increasingly assertive and coordinated authoritarian resurgence. This has taken a number of forms. At the height of the democratic boom, nearly all dictatorships either sought to persuade international public opinion that their regimes were democratic (as in the case of Vladimir Putin’s 2005 claim that Russia constituted a “managed democracy”) or that they are gradually moving towards democracy (China, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia). In contrast, autocrats now feel much freer to flout democratic values openly, assert the superiority of non-democratic forms of government, and violate the core principles of the liberal international order.

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January 18th, 2017
4:01 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with Lorna. This article is somewhat confused. Firstly followers of Trumpism (whatever that is)are not turning their backs on the values and institutions underpinning liberal democracy, although the author does not actually specify what these are, but simply voted for the wrong candidate in his eyes. Whatever you may think of Trump he won a free and fair election, and just because he panders to certain voters fears to suggest he is a danger to democracy is a falsehood. Secondly Amichai seems to then go on to conflate the Trump voters with a growing number of younger citizens 'more willing to entertain the notion of living under authoritarian rule'. I am pretty sure these young people are not Trump supporters, but have grown up being told by the left that the 'gentle authoritarianism' of institutions such as the EU are a better form of government than liberal democracy within a sovereign state. People are voting outside the 'system' because they no longer trust the political elite and are sick of being patronised by them if the only alternative is a Trump of a party of the extreme right or left then that's where they will turn.

December 1st, 2016
8:12 PM
Good comment Lorna

Lorna Salzman
November 26th, 2016
2:11 AM
A close comprehensive look at the history of democracy, with only one flaw: depicting opposition to 'free trade" and immigration as regressive anti democratic populism. But this is typical of liberals (including George Soros) and institutions like the EU who cling to their own kind of "gentle"authoritarianism" in order to promote what are actually anti democratic policies as well as trying to persuade us that opposition to unlimited unvetted immigration is pure xenopohbia and racism. It is this arrogance that pushes people into the arms of the populists and right wing. The author of this piece has regrettably joined forces with the neo liberals in denigrating genuine public concern over terrorism and globalization policies written by and for the corporate elite. The Democrats lost the election in the US because in the end they couldn't fool the American electorate about what they stood for.

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