Since the mid-2000s, democracy has regressed in nearly every part of the world. Global monitoring organization Freedom House (for whom I consult on reports on several Asian states) has recorded declines in global freedom for twelve years in a row. States like Bangladesh, Thailand, and Turkey have seen democracies completely collapse. Countries where democracy seemed to be making gains in the early 2010s, like Myanmar and Cambodia, have slid backwards, with Cambodia falling into one-party rule.
In a recent article for the Washington Post, I outlined how hard it will be for countries to rebuild free political systems after their democracies collapse. As a recent study by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change found, elected populists tend to hold office, on average, more than twice as long as elected non-populist leaders, giving these populists considerable time to undermine democracy. The same study found that populist leaders often expand executive power dramatically and foster widespread corruption. In fact, in states where autocratic-leaning populists are destroying democracy, it may be even harder to rebuild than in places, in the past, where old-school strongmen like military coup leaders simply crushed democracy.
Yet even after democracies collapse or severely regress, all hope is not lost. The road back to free politics is very arduous—and certainly sometimes unfixable—especially after autocratic-leaning populists undermine democracy. But there are some ways that citizens in regressing democracies can help preserve their political institutions, keep hopes of democracy alive, and possibly help their political systems rebound in the future. For more on how they can do so, see my new piece in World Politics Review.