Marina Nord, Fabio Angiolillo, Martin Lundstedt, Felix Wiebrecht, Staffan I. Lindberg | 2024

When autocratization is reversed: Episodes of democratic turnarounds since 1900

In: V-Dem Working Paper No. 147

The world is currently undergoing a ‘wave of autocratization.’ Yet, autocratization is not an end in itself but can be halted and, most importantly, reversed. This paper introduces “democratic turnarounds” as a new type of regime transformation episode in which autocratization is closely followed by and inherently linked to subsequent democratization. It provides a comprehensive conceptualization with an accompanying operationalization of this new type of episode between 1900-2022, complementing the existing Episodes of Regime Transformation (ERT) framework. It also presents the first-ever systematic empirical overview of patterns and developments of democratic turnarounds. A key finding is that 48% of all episodes of autocratization become democratic turnarounds, which increases to 70% when focusing on the last 30 years. The vast majority of democratic turnarounds (93 percent) lead to restored or even
improved levels of democracy. The new data on democratic turnaround episodes opens up new avenues for research on autocratization and democratization that were previously treated as distinct processes and promises answers to new questions such as why some episodes of autocratization lead to stable autocracies while others result in democratic turnarounds. Answering that question promises to be of tremendous importance for the world that is currently in its deepest-ever wave of autocratization.

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