Sensationalism has focused on fistfights over toilet rolls, but the real story is the withdrawal of democratic oversight, and how little public resistance there is to the declaration of martial law. Power granted is power conceded; and power relinquished is power reclaimed with difficulty.Weiterlesen
Demokratie, Rechtstaat und Legitimität in Zeiten von Corona
von Sascha Kneip
Die Exekutiven von Bund und Ländern behandeln in der Corona-Epidemie „ihre“ Bürgerinnen und Bürger wie unmündige Kinder, obwohl doch eigentlich sie diejenigen sind, deren Handlungen demokratisch kontrolliert werden müssten. Das wirft kein gutes Licht auf den demokratischen Rechtstaat und die Legitimität der Demokratie.Weiterlesen
Konflikte um soziale und nationalstaatliche Grenzen stellen linke Parteien vor die Frage, wie Umverteilungs- und Anerkennungspolitik verknüpft werden können. Vanessa Wintermantel, wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin der Abteilung „Demokratie und Demokratisierung“, erörtert in diesem Beitrag, wie ein solches neues linkes Projekt mit dem Ziel einer gerechteren, pluralistischen Gesellschaft aussehen könnte: Es sollte sowohl die sozioökomische Ungleichheit als auch gruppenspezifische Formen der Benachteiligung bekämpfen, um alle Benachteiligten zu befähigen, sich als handelnde Subjekte in eine gerechte und offene soziale und politische Gemeinschaft einzubringen.
Die Demokratietheorie ist sich einig, dass Freiheit und Gleichheit zentral für demokratische Ordnungen sind, schwankt aber in der Einschätzung des Verhältnisses dieser beiden Prinzipien. Gerade in der liberalen Theorie wird zu viel Gleichheit als schädlich für die Freiheit gedeutet. Die WZB Forscher Dr. Heiko Giebler und Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Merkel untersuchen, ob ein Zielkonflikt zwischen Freiheit und Gleichheit existiert. Mit Blick auf die Situation in mehr als 50 Demokratien kann empirisch gezeigt werden, dass in demokratischen Gesellschaften Freiheit und Gleichheit kaum miteinander in Konflikt geraten, sondern sich meist wechselseitig verstärken.
Das katalanische Unabhängigkeitsreferendum war weder legal noch legitim, argumentieren Julian Brückner und Sascha Kneip. In diesem Beitrag gehen die Autoren der Frage nach, ob es sich bei dem Referendum für eine Unabhängigkeit von Spanien um einen Staatstreich handelt, wie die spanische Zentralregierung in Madrid behauptet, und ob ein solcher Coup überhaupt demokratisch sein kann. Weiterlesen
Oft heißt es, die Demokratie sei weltweit in Gefahr und der Rechtspopulismus auf dem Vormarsch. Dabei stehen die reifen Demokratien heute in vielerlei Hinsicht besser da als vor 50 Jahren. Und trotzdem haben sie ein zentrales Versprechen an ihre Bürger gebrochen.
Wolfgang Merkel diskutiert in einem Kommentar der bei zuerst Online beim CICERO erschienen ist das Ende des „Ende der Geschichte“.
Direktor Wolfgang Merkel mit einer Vorlesung in der Teleakademie des SWR über Trump, Brexit und die Frage nach einen Herbst der Demokratie?
Brexit, Trumps Wahlsieg in den USA, der Rechtspopulist Hofer scheitert nur knapp an der Wahl zum Bundespräsidenten in Österreich. Rechtspopulisten befinden sich dies- und jenseits des Atlantiks in einem beängstigenden Vormarsch. In Ungarn und Polen sitzen sie längst in der Regierung. Gleichzeitig hat der deregulierte globale Kapitalismus die demokratische Gestaltungskraft der Nationalstaaten ausgehöhlt.
Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, which appeared in 1951, still bore the deep imprint of the recently dismantled National Socialist terror regime and the most extreme excesses of Stalinism. The distinguishing features of totalitarianism as a regime type were then readily identifiable: an elaborate ideology of domination plus terrorism, both of which characterized the »short twentieth century’s« history of political rule and warfare. Both Hannah Arendt and Harvard University scholar Carl Joachim Friedrich distinguished carefully between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. Authoritarian regimes, Arendt said, curtailed freedom, whereas totalitarian rule did away with it entirely. In essence, the notion of totalitarianism focused on the untrammeled control that that those in power wielded over their subjects. Under such circumstances not even the state should be regarded as the principal locus of power. According to Arendt that role was played by the party – and of course its leader – that articulated the official word-view. Both totalitarian systems sought to legitimize their rule by deploying a grand ideological narrative, whether of the »classless society« in the case of Stalinism, or »the superiority of our race and nation« in the case of Nazism.
From the very outset, neither the concept nor the theory of totalitarianism was free of inconsistencies and over-hasty analogies. It was always a problematic move to equate (at least implicitly) a Promethean idea of the »realm of freedom« (Karl Marx) with the darkness of a National Socialist ideology of annihilation. Of course, in practice these regimes displayed certain parallels – despite the dissimilarities – in respect to the uses of terror. Both erected Leviathan-like apparatuses that destroyed freedom and carried out deadly repression against Jews and class enemies, respectively.
During the Cold War the concept of totalitarianism continued to lose analytic clarity as it was used prematurely to describe all communist regimes and, increasingly, any dictatorship whatsoever. Not infrequently, it degenerated into a political rallying cry. In reality, truly totalitarian regimes were not that common in the 20 th century. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1956, Nazi Germany from 1934/38 to 1945, some of the Eastern European satellite regimes in the 50s, China from the early 50s up until Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, the genocidal Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and the autocratic Kim family dynasty in North Korea furnish irrefutable examples of totalitarian rule. In the early years of the 21st century the People’s Republic of North Korea is the only totalitarian regime left. The theocratic Islamic regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia or of the Taliban in Afghanistan never have become fully totalitarian. Although their fundamentalist dogmas were intended to penetrate deeply into the everyday lives of the faithful, those governments lacked the mature state development that would have allowed them to translate their ambitions of complete control into a full-blown totalitarian reality.
Dictatorships in the 21st century
The long-lasting third wave of democratization that culminated in the collapse of the Soviet empire at the end of the 20 th century altered the national and international conditions for political rule. If we disregard the more radicalized versions of Islam that have been emerging in some places, grand ideological narratives of political rule have disappeared. Given the globalized economic and communications networks that have emerged, it is an anachronistic fiction to imagine that autocracies could hermetically seal off a zone of political control. Political authority increasingly requires forms of justification that take freedom, political participation, and respect for human rights into account. New forms of autocratic rule came into being that scholars now classify under the heading of electoral authoritarianism, i.e., autocracies with elections. Such elections are quite distinct from those that were held in the Eastern Bloc in the era of »really existing socialism,« in which voter turnout exceeded 99 % and the communist candidates and those of their satellite parties typically won about 99 % of the votes cast. That kind of election is now a quaint relic of the past. Today, elections in authoritarian regimes in Africa or Asia no longer can be so easily managed as they were in the former Eastern Bloc. To be sure, they are manipulated, orchestrated, and rigged, but they also offer the opposition a welcome opportunity to mobilize, make alliances, and appeal to a national and international public. The new authoritarian desire to establish a formally democratic residue of legitimacy in the domestic and foreign arenas carries with it a risk to the legitimacy of those in power.
Formerly clear boundaries between prototypical democracies and dictatorships have grown increasingly blurred. Leaving aside merely polemical use of terms, who would want to say exactly which of the following regimes should be counted as an autocracy or merely classified as a defective democracy: Russia under Vladimir Putin (or Boris Yelstin), the Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the contemporary Ukraine, Venezuela, the Philippines, or Singapore? Scholarly research on regimes has grown more cautious. Increasingly it avoids clear typologies and locates really existing regimes along a continuum between the ideal of democracy under the rule of law on the one hand and »perfect« dictatorship on the other. Such classifications thus leave many political regimes in a gray area between the ideal-types. Accordingly, researchers in the field are now talking about »gray area regimes.« These are then subdivided into hybrid regimes (Russia), »democraduras« (Venezuela), or defective democracies (Hungary). Furthermore, the gray area regimes are more stable than is commonly assumed, in that they do not move over time in the direction of becoming closed dictatorships or open democracies. They have long since established their own equilibrium, one that is sensitive to both historical and political contexts. Today, Putin, Erdogan, and Orbán enjoy greater popularity among their respective citizen bodies – and the non-elites within them – than the chancellor of Germany or the President of France’s Fifth Republic, although both of the latter govern democratic countries under the rule of law. This paradox is one aspect of the postmodern jigsaw puzzle: all across the globe forms of political authority are growing more differentiated.
How stable are the new dictatorships?
If we assume the tripartite division of political regimes into autocracies, hybrid regimes, and democracies, we can distinguish, among the 200 or so countries in the world, about 65 democracies under the rule of law and 45 unvarnished autocracies. Of the remainder, the majority are hybrid regimes in all of their different permutations.
So how stable are political regimes really? How durable are dictatorships? Statistically speaking, over the past 60 years democracies have been the most stable, followed by dictatorships, and finally by hybrid regimes. What is the reason for the relative stability of dictatorial regimes? In a study recently carried out at the Berlin Social Science Center we assumed that political rule in dictatorships, as incidentally in hybrid regimes as well, rests on three pillars: legitimation, repression, and cooptation.
Legitimation always derives from two sources, one normative and the other performance-based. Anti-liberalism, racism, nationalism, religiously anachronistic ideas of salvation, as well as Marxist visionary schemes all can generate at least temporary normative approval among those on the receiving end of political rule. However, in the early years of the 21st century fascist and communist ideologies have lost much of their appeal. If any ideologies still have the ability to create strong ties among their adherents nowadays, it would be the variants of Islamic political fundamentalism. But for them, restrictions on basic human rights are part of the canon of principles upon which their claims to rule depend. And, for that very reason, in the long run the wellsprings of their promises of salvation will likely dry up and the enchantment of their world will fade in the cold light of a repressive reality. Because the normative side of legitimation is sapped in this way, dictatorial regimes rely for support especially on their performance in the areas of the economy, security, and order. But autocratic regimes also face risks if the economy and society modernize too rapidly. When that happens, middle classes form, workers unionize, educational levels increase, civil society emerges, and discourses get underway that invite broader political participation. However, this is not a trend that culminates inevitably in a successful process of democratization in the way that modernization theory optimistically still claims. That other outcomes are possible is confirmed by diverse countries such as Singapore, the People’s Republic of China or the petro-dictatorships of the Gulf. The latter of course maintain enormous numbers of Southeast Asian slave laborers deprived of all rights, which enables them to evade the challenge of dealing with a self-confident domestic working class.
Second, autocracies rely on repression, which can assume different forms and levels of intensity. We distinguish in our research project (»Why do dictatorships survive?«) between »soft« and »hard« repression, although their boundaries are shifting. Whereas the first of these primarily aims to restrict political rights such as the freedoms of assembly, expression, press, and employment, the latter is designed mainly to attack the core of human rights, such as the right to life, physical integrity, and the liberty of the individual. It can be demonstrated empirically that elites in authoritarian systems of rule frequently react to threats to the status quo with intensified repression. Yet repression alone is scarcely capable of stabilizing a political regime in the long run. This is so because a great deal of legitimacy is being sacrificed. When repression is ratcheted up, its deterrent power is enhanced, but simultaneously there is a loss of legitimation and thereby of popular consent. High levels of hard repression are expensive, and ultimately they undermine the foundations of political authority. During the period that we examined (1950-2008), statistical evidence shows that soft repression was the most successful factor in stabilizing hundreds of dictatorships.
The third pillar of political domination is cooptation. It may enable elites in autocratic systems of rule to induct influential actors and groups outside the regime proper into the inner circle of the dictatorship. Strategically important elites of this type are generally recruited from among the economic elite, the security services, and the military. They are usually offered offices, political privileges, resources, and economic concessions as a quid pro quo for their loyalty. Corruption, clientelism, and patrimonial networks are their instruments.
Nevertheless, the availability of resources places limits on the duration and extent of »purchased« collaboration of broad groups with the regime. In our analysis we show that weaknesses in one of the pillars of rule can be offset by shoring up the other ones. Yet in some instances cracks in one pillar can overburden the others. Then spaces of protest open up that, if employed on a grand scale, can lead to the collapse of the entire regime. Of course, there are no guarantees that the rule of law and democracy will ensue from its demise. The many unsuccessful processes of transformation in the eastern portions of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Arab Spring all confirm this.
It is also possible to overestimate the stabilizing influence of cooptation. As a rule, the ideal equilibrium state for the survival of dictatorships would combine a high level of legitimation derived from ideology and performance, the least possible application of »hard« repression, extensive »soft« repression, and a moderate degree of cooptation. Singapore approaches that equilibrium state most closely, while China is clearly headed in that direction. But even hybrid regimes such as Putin’s Russia are not so far removed from an equilibrium of this sort.
Francis Fukuyama’s thesis that we are witnessing the irreversible triumph of democracy (1991) proved to be a half-baked fantasy. The envisioned export of democracy from the West to the rest and of military regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya has failed dismally. The free societies of the West, East, and South will have to continue living and negotiating with dictatorships. There are no panaceas. Trade-offs have already been programmed in. A magical polygon still has not been devised that would accommodate values, interests, human rights, economy, democracy, and stability. There are no short cuts in dealing with dictatorships. It will take tedious negotiations, value-based pragmatism, and the proverbial long, hard road to get there.
directs the division »Democracy and Democratization« at the Berlin Social Science Center and is professor of political science at the Humboldt University in Berlin. His most recent publication, by Springer VS, is an edited volume entitled Demokratie und Krise: Zum schwierigen Verhältnis von Theorie und Empirie.
First published as »Die neuen Diktaturen« in Neue Gesellschaft / Frankfurter Hefte 11/2016:17-20.
This post is a guest contribution by Laura Gamboa from Utah State University and Raul A. Sanchez Urribarri from La Trobe University, Melbourne.
For a couple of years now, Venezuela has been going through a severe crisis: it has the world’s highest inflation, increasing scarcity, rising crime and deepening authoritarianism. In order to address the crisis, the coalition Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) –which groups the country’s most important opposition parties and won the 2015 Legislative elections—has been pushing, since June, for a recall referendum against President Nicolas Maduro. After allowing different stages of the referendum to move forward, on October 21st, the Venezuelan Electoral Council (CNE) suspended the process. This controversial decision followed a series of lower courts’ rulings in the states of Carabobo, Apure, Aragua and Bolívar, in response to lawsuits introduced by ruling-party (PSUV) governors accusing the opposition of committing fraud in earlier steps of the process, that had already been verified and accepted by the CNE. Moreover, after this decision, several opposition leaders were barred from leaving the country by another judicial order. These moves garnered condemnations from the opposition and the international community, fuelling fears that Venezuela is on the path of becoming a full-fledged dictatorship.
How Did Venezuela Get to the Recall Referendum in the First Place?
For several years now, Venezuela has been a competitive authoritarian regime. The government has a nominal commitment to liberal-democratic institutions, including elections, freedom of expression and association, independent courts, and so forth. However, as several observers and scholars of Venezuelan politics have shown, the regime systematically manipulates and restricts dissent. This trend has become even worse under President Maduro, the less charismatic successor to President Hugo Chavez (who replaced him in 2013 after his death). Under Maduro’s rule, the regime has become even more autocratic. It has imprisoned political opponents with the collaboration of a politicized judiciary, circumvent the authority of democratically elected officers and, more worryingly, increased the presence of the military in the government causing great concern at home and abroad.
In the midst of the worst economic and security crisis that the country has seen in decades the opposition has taken important steps towards regime change. Because it is a competitive, rather than a fully authoritarian regime, in Venezuela, defeating the government via elections albeit hard, is still an alternative. Building on a string of successful inclusive alliances, and having been accustomed to solving their differences through functional internal mechanisms, the once heavily-fragmented MUD now poses a serious threat to Chavismo’s electoral dominance. In December 2015, they won two thirds of the National Assembly; they control some of the most important municipal and state governments in the country, and there is a strong likelihood that they could win even more posts in the next ‘regional’ elections, given Maduro’s lack of popularity and the PSUV’s low numbers in recent polls.
MUD’s most serious threat, however, has been the recall referendum –a constitutional provision that allows 20% of the electorate to request the removal of an unpopular President. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the government’s response to this threat had been to delay the referendum. In the past months, the CNE engaged in a series of dawdling tactics that slowed down the process, taking considerable time to organize a preliminary signature-collection needed to activate the referendum and to make key decisions regarding its schedule. This is unsurprising, since the CNE’s neutrality has long been perceived as compromised by the opposition and international observers (all members but one are perceived as pro-government), and so has been the Supreme Court’s (notorious for its activist protection of the government’s interests.)
These tactics make sense as a power-preservation strategy: According to article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, if the referendum took place before January 10, 2017, Maduro would have had to resign and call for elections. If it happened afterwards, he would still have had to resign, but his vice-president could finish his term (2013-2019). The fact that the referendum would be delayed until 2017 was very likely from the onset. Although the MUD had been working hard to hold the referendum in 2016, it was quite possible that the CNE and other state institutions (particularly the pro-government Supreme Court) could delay it long enough to be held after January 2017. Thus, the move to stop the electoral contest is particularly puzzling, given that the delaying tactics appeared to be a less costly mechanism for Chavistas to remain in power.
Although blocking the referendum raised concerns, so far, the government had gotten away with an ever-feeble, yet still important, “democratic façade.” Although Chavismo has become more authoritarian after Chávez passed away, and its legitimacy has been significantly eroded in recent months, it has been difficult for the opposition movement and its allies to build support against the regime internationally. For a long time, the government had substantial electoral legitimacy at home and abroad: Chavismo won most elections under Chavez’s rule, accepted the results of the legislative elections in 2015, and frequently strived to nominally comply with constitutional norms, in order to keep appearances. Hindering a recall referendum that, clearly most Venezuelans want, falls outside this trend, and could undermine the government’s already weakening international legitimacy.
Additionally, the referendum is a constitutional and peaceful mechanism to remove Maduro from the presidency and commence a transition to democracy. Unless the economic and security situation improves overnight, stopping the referendum risks political violence, that could end in a forceful removal from power, as the opposition movement might resort to non-legal means to increase pressure on the incumbent regime. In light of these costs, and the fact that the government could have manipulated the electoral rules just enough to push the referendum beyond January 2017 and stay in power, why stop the process altogether?
There are at least two non-exclusive reasons that seem to be behind the move by the authorities to stop the referendum. First, the Maduro regime is trying to increase its leverage for a dialogue with the opposition, pushing them to negotiate concessions in exchange for regime change (such as amnesty, guarantees for political participation, assets protection, and so forth). Before October, there were few visible attempts to initiate negotiations between Chavistas and the MUD. Yet, these attempts were unsuccessful, due to strong criticism within the opposition coalition from a sector that until now –at least openly– refuses to negotiate with the government.
Secondly the regime might want to stop the referendum in order to avoid a transition to democracy altogether. Several key PSUV leaders have denied the possibility of a referendum, including Maduro himself, former chair of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, and others. More worryingly, this move could, reflect changes inside the government coalition, in particular the strengthening of hardliners and the already powerful military. It is well known that the latter has benefited immensely from the regime, receiving major economic benefits from their presence in major state operations –including the state-owned oil company PDVSA—and has been able to run corruption and drug trafficking schemes with impunity. A removal of the current Maduro regime,, regardless of whether it happens with a referendum or not, would likely deprive the military from such benefits. Additionally, officers could face criminal prosecution in a future regime. Hence, the military establishment might feel it has more to lose than to gain from a successful transition to democracy. It might be in their best interest to stop the recall referendum. Unlike the civilian faction of Chavismo, which fears an uprising or a coup, the armed forces have direct control of weaponry, military staff and even members inside the courts. They can engage in repression and clamp down on any potential social mobilization or protest.
Despite Maduro´s recent attempts to engage in a dialogue with the opposition, the mentioned worrisome scenarios cannot be discarded. Until a clear commitment to the referendum is made and an institutional path to regime change is preserved and respected, the suspension of the referendum might well block the possibility of a peaceful transition to democracy.
If the Referendum’s Path is Blocked, What is Next?
Consistent with the opposition’s non-violent mixed strategy of protests and elections, its response to the government’s decision to stop the referendum has been twofold. First, it called for pacific demonstrations asking the government to return to a “constitutional path,” replace justices and members of the CNE, and allow the referendum or early elections to take place. Second, some of its leaders agreed to participate in a dialogue with the government, with mediation of the Vatican and UNASUR. Although the talks are currently in course, for the time being, they have established a venue for discussion and negotiation between the government and the MUD.
The opposition’s strategy, however, is fraught with risks. On the one hand, the demonstrations could turn violent and give the government an excuse to call off the dialogues and escalate repression. On the other hand, the dialogue could be used by the government to catch its breath and stifle the momentum the opposition has had since last year, allowing it to postpone the referendum, creating more tensions within the opposition coalition, and eliminating the only escape valve available to channel popular discontent in Venezuela so far. The fact that the dialogue could backfire and strengthen Maduro’s embattled government, is in fact a possibility that seriously worries an important sector of the opposition and even some external observers.
Whether this happens or not, will largely depend on the international community willingness to pressure the incumbent government to negotiate, as well as the ability of the opposition to remain united, use the street protests strategically to increase the pressure for an agreement, and –simultaneously—accept some concessions towards the Chavista regime. A proper analysis of the dialogue process, will be contingent on how the coming days unfold. In the mean time, it behoves comparative scholars and international observers to follow the crisis in Venezuela and pay close attention to its development and still uncertain prospects.
 Corrales, Javier. „Autocratic legalism in Venezuela.“ Journal of Democracy 26.2 (2015): 37-51.
 Kornblith, Miriam. „Chavismo After Chávez?.“ Journal of Democracy 24.3 (2013): 47-61.
 Sanchez Urribarri, Raul A. „Courts between democracy and hybrid authoritarianism: evidence from the Venezuelan Supreme Court.“ Law & Social Inquiry 36.4 (2011): 854-884, Corrales, Javier. „Autocratic legalism in Venezuela.“ Journal of Democracy 26.2 (2015): 37-51
 Corrales, Javier “Explaining Chavismo: The Unexpected Alliance of Radical Leftists and the Military in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez” in Ricardo Hausmann and Francisco Rodríguez eds. Venezuela Before Chávez: Anatomy of an Economic Collapse. Univerity Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014.
 Trinkunas, Harold A. Crafting CivilianCcontrol of the Military in Venezuela: A Comparative Perspective. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.