Among the many factors driving an authoritarian resurgence around the world is a trend of increasing significance: the rise of regimes featuring dominant parties that engage in creeping autocratization. This trend covers a range of countries with different levels of overall democratic quality, from fragile democracies to more repressive regimes. The trend’s common thread is that one party ensconces itself in power and effectively nullifies opposition parties. These dominant-party regimes present especially high-profile and thorny dilemmas for international democracy support in that they can often co-opt programs that offer support to state organs, election commissions, technical bodies, facilitators of intraparty mediation, and members of civil society.
Under the auspices of the European Democracy Hub, Ken Godfrey and Richard Youngs and a group of country experts studied the contours of this trend and the concerns it has raised among democracy practitioners, foundations, and donors about democracy support. The above article draws on and synthesizes the findings of four case studies of different types of dominant-party regimes in Georgia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Zimbabwe. This research demonstrates that the dynamics specific to these types of regimes undermine the utility of many traditional forms of support for sound governance and democracy. The democracy support community has begun to respond to this challenge in some places, but the task is becoming more pressing and requires far more systematic policy attention than it has so far received.
Country case studies: