Levitsky and Way’s article describes competitive authoritarianism, a type of hybrid regime. Competitive authoritarianism regimes possess many democratic institutions such as elections and civil liberties however, they are often violated or abused to an extent and frequency that separates them from being democratic. The authors list four arenas of democratic contestation in which opposing forces from a competitive authoritarian regime might challenge: the electoral arena, the legislative arena, the judicial arena, and the media. The article provides the various paths that can lead to competitive authoritarianism suggesting that this type of hybrid regime can result from decay of both a democratic as well as a authoritarian regime.1
Although Russia holds a presidential election every six year, current President Vladimir Putin has managed to rule longer than any Russia leader since Stalin. This article from the Economist explains how Putin has managed to hold office for so long despite the occurrence of elections in Russia. Being able to control the media and well as eliminate competition has allowed Putin to convince the people that there is no other alternative. The article describes the elections as less of an election and more of a coronation for the “reigning king”.2
How can holding elections provide the head of government of an authoritarian regime legitimacy?
According to the procedural definition of democracy, a regime must have free and fair elections to be considered democratic. In a competitive democracy, the regime will often hold elections for office but they will most likely not be free nor fair. In Mexico, the PRI party was dominant and in rule for several years. Although Mexico held a presidential election, the PRI manipulated the election so they would win without fault. Similarly, Russia holds elections but Putin has managed to hold office for several terms because he has control over both the media and the competition
- Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way, “The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism” Found in J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
- “Why Vladimir Putin is Sure to Win the Election” The Economist, May 16, 2018. https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2018/03/16/why-vladimir-putin-is-sure-to-win-the-russian-election.