The Age of Zombie Democracies

Ken Roth in Foreign Affairs:

Over the past decade, autocrats around the world have perfected the technique of “managed” or “guided” democracy. In Belarus, Egypt, Russia, Uganda, Venezuela, and elsewhere, authoritarian leaders have held periodic elections to enhance their legitimacy but monopolized the media, restricted civil society, and manipulated state institutions and resources to ensure that they remained in power.

Such methods are never foolproof, however, and their effectiveness has diminished as citizens have wised up and learned to operate within rigged systems. A growing number of autocrats have thus been forced to rely on ever starker forms of repression: they still hold periodic elections since their people have come to expect them, but they do not even pretend that these empty rituals are free or fair. The result has been the proliferation of what might be called “zombie democracies”—the living dead of electoral political systems, recognizable in form but devoid of any substance.

More here.