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February 07, 2023

Personalist Strongmen: Challenges and Trends

By Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz

Looking back, 2022 was a bad year for strongmen. Take Russia, where Vladimir Putin’s poor judgement led to a war that has not only devasted Ukraine, but left Russia seriously weakened and Putin’s own hold on power more tenuous. In China, as well, widespread protests over the country’s heavy-handed COVID restrictions tarnished the increasingly personalist Xi Jinping’s image, culminating in the most overt signs of dissent that observers have seen there in years.

Personalist authoritarianism is harmful to global democracy, as these regimes are the least likely form of dictatorship to democratize upon their collapse.

Even outside of autocracies, the world’s strongmen faced setbacks last year. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro lost re-election in October 2022, prompting calls among his supporters for the military to intervene and overturn the result. Likewise, in the United States, the Republican Party’s poor performance in mid-term elections in November 2022 dealt a major blow to Donald Trump’s image and prospects for returning to power. The bad news for strongmen trickled over into 2023 too, with the Czech Republic’s former highly personalist Prime Minister Andrej Babis losing in the country’s presidential election in January.

Read the full article from Democracy Paradox.

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