188.8.131.52 A Partially Authoritarian Government
Some democracies have suppressed political opposition to have a partially authoritarian government which cannot easily be voted out
Some countries have the political structures which are associated with democracy, and have leaders who were initially very popular, but who have to become more authoritarian – as in Russia and Turkey for example:
A Guardian article, 15 years of Vladimir Putin: 15 ways he has changed Russia and the world, describes how President Putin has “consistently moved toward greater consolidation of his own power” by eliminating opponents, developing a “cult of personality” and restoring Russian national pride. He was given credit for restoring the economy of Russia, which had “contracted by more than two-fifths” during its implementation of market reforms in the 1990s, causing many Russians to associate liberal democracy with economic hardship.
Reuters reported in December 2018 that “66 percent of Russians said they regretted the Soviet break-up”, because then “there used to be more social justice and …it was better in terms of care for citizens and paternalistic expectations”, so they are comfortable with having a partially authoritarian government. And Putin represents continuity from the Soviet era in more ways than one: he had been the head of the KGB, which has continued to support him according to the book Putin’s People by Catherine Belton.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also been consolidating his power. An Economist article, Recep Tayyip the First, described how “Mr Erdogan and his party, plus their ultranationalist allies, scored a double knockout in Turkey’s elections” in June 2018. “Though free, it was the most unfair election in Turkey in decades”.
“Mr Erdogan has complete control of the executive, including the power to issue decrees, appoint his own cabinet, draw up the budget, dissolve parliament by calling early elections, and pack the bureaucracy and the courts with political appointees.”
Both Russia and Turkey hold elections but there is no effective opposition in either country, so they are one-party States in practice whilst retaining the vestiges of democratic legitimacy. Human rights and freedom of the press are curtailed in both. Their populations cannot easily change their governments, but that does not necessarily mean that their leaders are unpopular. Some other countries, notably Hungary and Poland, are moving in the same direction.
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6311.htm.