The Editors’ introduction to “Mainstream Parties in Crisis.”
Volume 32, Issue 1
Mainstream Parties in Crisis
Around the world, polarizing political strategies are pushing societies into a vicious cycle of zero-sum politics and eroding democratic norms. If democracies are to escape this trap, wise choices and innovation by prodemocratic politicians will be needed.
Political polarization is not always bad for democracy. What is more, a tendency of major parties to converge into some kind of “grand coalition of the center” poses serious risks for a democratic system.
Faced with the rise of extreme and illiberal political players, mainstream parties have employed strategies of banning, marginalization, and cooptation. Yet to truly heal the underlying democratic ailment, establishment parties will need to look inward.
While analysts of populism have focused on economic woes and “cultural backlash,” a thirst for the restoration of order may better explain the appeal of authoritarian populists in fragile democracies where governance is falling short.
Like the “transition paradigm” before it, the concept of democratic backsliding threatens to flatten our perceptions of complex political realities. Examples from East-Central Europe illustrate the ambiguous dynamics at play in many troubled democracies.
The retirement of the country’s longest-serving prime minister leaves in place a “continuity administration,” and with it some troubling questions about whether liberal democracy’s “soft guardrails” are being eroded.
The return to power, via elections, of the Rajapaksa family signals the consolidation of a Sinhalese Buddhist ethnocracy. But there are reasons to hope it will not take a turn toward full despotism.
India’s Constitution has long seemed stable, but the rise of an ethnic, absolute, and opaque state is changing the constitutional order in momentous and disturbing ways.
The alleged tradeoff between economic development and political democracy-building is more fiction than fact. Indeed, progress toward fuller democratic governance can in fact enhance development.
A decade ago, Arab peoples stood up and sought to replace their rulers with a more democratic political project. But Arab autocrats have a project of their own. Can the people gain ground in the struggle for self-government, or will their rulers bear it away?
A review of The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? by Michael J. Sandel.
A review of Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World, by Tom Burgis.
Reports on elections in Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burma, Côte d’Ivoire, Georgia, Guinea, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Seychelles, Tanzania.
Iranian women’s rights activist Shaparak Shajarizadeh’s speech accepting the Morris B. Abram award; the World Uyghur Congress statement for the UN’s 75th anniversary; call by NGOs for the release of human-rights advocate Ramy Kamel in Egypt; NGO statement on the police response to Thai prodemocracy protests; statement of support for LGBTI activists in Poland; statement…