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Democracy Under Stress

- October 20, 2017
Is representative government in retreat worldwide?
Featured Report

Many democracies in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia are veering toward autocracy, stalling or reversing decades of democratic progress. Leaders have postponed elections, jailed opponents, restricted personal and press freedoms and rewritten constitutions to legalize their actions. Freedoms have eroded in such countries as Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, the Philippines and Poland. In addition, Western democracies are struggling with economic, social and political instability, corruption, immigration and frustrated voters who have turned to populist-nationalist leaders for solutions. Donald Trump, elected president in a wave of populist fervor in the United States, has vowed to stop promoting democracy overseas and to withdraw from some treaties. Meanwhile, Russia seeks to undermine democratic institutions, free elections and liberal Western alliances, and China is wooing developing nations in an effort to show that countries can prosper without the constraints of democracy. Still, some observers are optimistic about democracy's future, saying that new democracies are emerging and others are showing surprising resilience.

America First

President Trump seeks foreign aid cuts and an end to most democracy-building efforts.

Embattled Democracies

Nations worldwide are facing challenges.

1900s–1970sDictatorships rise and fall; Western democratic alliances are established.
1980s–1990sDemocracy rises in former Soviet-controlled nations.
2000-PresentDemocracies falter in Russia, Venezuela and Eastern Europe.

Is democracy in retreat around the world?


Arch Puddington
Distinguished Scholar for Democracy Studies, Freedom House.


Lucan Ahmad Way
Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto.


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