• Journal of Democracy

Polarization versus Democracy


Democratic breakdowns almost always come in one of two, very different forms: executive takeovers and military coups.

The rise in executive takeovers presents several challenges for our understanding of democratic stability. The first stems from the fact that, unlike military coups, takeovers are conducted by democratically elected incumbents. These politicians must enjoy—at least initially—sufficient popular support to capture the executive by democratic means.

In most cases, they also need to muster enough electoral strength to control another branch of government, typically the legislature. The latter’s complicity is usually essential in carrying out the kind of constitutional changes that facilitate the subversion of democracy: the abolition of term limits, the political subjugation of the judiciary, and the expansion of executive authority (sometimes by a constitutional shift from a parliamentary toward a presidential system). Read more ...


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