The scarcest political resource: Why autocrats claim to be democrats


The world is witnessing an attack on democracy through the diminution of checks and balances, while authoritarian actors establish “democratic scenery” that includes elections, according to a leading analyst.

Why do Nicolás Maduro, Ortega, Putin, Lukashenko, et al, take the trouble to mount elections that everyone knows are false? asks Moisés Naím, best-selling author of influential books, including The End of Power and the forthcoming The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats Are Reinventing Politics for the 21st CenturyBecause they need legitimacy, the scarcest of political resources. Which is we need modern public officials to be well-connected with journalists and activists who are denouncing these stealthy, clandestine, opaque takeovers, through which governments claim a democratic vocation, he writes for Diálogo Político, a platform for democratic dialogue in Latin America.

Polarization is like cholesterol

Latin America’s democracies have been marred by severe polarization, experts suggest.

But polarization is like cholesterol: there is good and a bad version, adds Naím, a former National Endowment for Democracy board member:

  • Good polarization is when organizations and politicians compete with those who have other ideas. Later, thanks to the clean, transparent and fair elections, one of those views prevails and governs with the other as opposition. That is called democracy.
  • But there is another bad polarization that paralyzes, prevents the government from working, because the game is locked….where polarization simply serves to inflame spirits, to increase the cracks that already exist in society…..that does not grant the rival the right to exist.

Such ideas must be contested by searching for consensus, for shared visions, he concludes. RTWT


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