Democracy Research News April 2018

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April 2018


“Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence” – A new report published by four NDRI members – the International Forum for Democratic Studies (U.S.), CADAL (Argentina), the Institute for Public Affairs (Slovakia), and the Institute of Public Affairs (Poland) – examines Chinese and Russian influence in Argentina, Peru, Slovakia, and Poland. The report finds that a clear reconceptualization of “soft power” is needed to adequately describe authoritarian influence activities. Such influence is better described as “sharp power,” in that it pierces, penetrates, or perforates the information and political environments in the targeted countries. The report has since received global media coverage, including the cover of The Economist.

NDRI Welcomes Nine New Members –   The Network of Democracy Research Institutes is pleased to welcome nine new members: Institute of Economic Affairs (Ghana), AcaMedia (Czech Republic), Association for International Affairs (Czech Republic), Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies  (Serbia), Political Capital  (Hungary), Prague Security Studies Institute  (Czech Republic), Center for Social Sciences (Georgia), Centre to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (Malaysia), and Instituto Atuação  (Brazil).

V-Dem Institute Releases Call for Papers – The V-Dem Institute is holding a research workshop on “Democracy in Reverse: Patterns of Autocratization in Eastern Europe and Eurasia” at the UPTAKE research consortium in Estonia on October 19, 2018. The Institute invites paper proposals (between 300-500 words) on all topics related to autocratization in the post-communist region. Proposals should be sent by May 15 to: Prof. Vello Pettai, Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, University of Tartu,



Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law (U.S.) published a working paper on “Do Fair Elections Increase the Responsiveness of Politicians?,” in which the author argues that “higher-integrity elections incentivize incumbents to exert more effort to satisfy citizens’ demand for constituency service.”

The International Forum for Democratic Studies published the April 2018 Journal of Democracy, which includes a cluster of articles on “China in Xi’s New Era” that examines China’s internal changes in the wake of the 19th Party Congress, its expanding global ambitions, and its influence operations from Canberra to the Czech Republic. Also available is a pair of articles on the impact of the rise of populism for liberal democracies, as well as individual studies of Kenya and corruption in Brazil.

Power 3.0: Understanding Modern Authoritarian Influence: a new blog run by the International Forum explores how savvy authoritarian governments survive and thrive in a globalized information age, and the ways that democracies are contending with this challenge.



Afrobarometer’s 2017 national survey in Ghana shows that most Ghanaians support efforts to wipe out illegal small-scale mining and approve of the government’s performance on this issue; overwhelmingly reject mob “justice” and the lawless activities of political vigilante groups; and strongly endorse the rule of law in Ghana but see important inequities in how the law is applied.

In Nigeria, Afrobarometer‘s 2017 survey indicates that public perceptions of the government’s fight against corruption have improved dramatically. Perceived corruption in the public sector, however, remains high, with the police perceived as the most corrupt and least trusted by citizens. Although most Nigerians think they can make a difference in the fight against graft, many still fear retaliations should they report an incident of corruption.

The latest briefing paper by the Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), “Strengthening Stakeholder Participation in Decentralized Planning Systems in Ghana,” by Dr. Franklin Oduro and Paul Osei Kuffour, argues that a major feature of Ghana’s decentralization and devolution process is the increased involvement of local communities, the citizenry, and civil society.

A briefing paper by the Center for Democracy and Development West Africa (Nigeria), “Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism in Burkina Faso” finds that extremism is on the rise in the country due, in part, to rising unemployment and poverty levels, particularly among youth, who are more vulnerable to extremist ideologies. A lack of trust in government and security forces makes the fight against these ideologies difficult to tackle.

In “The Effect of Elections on Kenya’s Economy,” the Institute of Economic Affairs (Kenya) finds that the periods before Kenyan elections cause high levels of anxiety among economic actors in the country, who think that this period exposes Kenya’s fragility. The uncertainty results in lower GDP growth rates during many election years.



Researchers from members of the Asia Democracy Research Network, including King Prajadhipok’s Institute (Thailand), the International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (Philippines), Jinnah Institute (Pakistan), and East Asia Institute (South Korea), published a special report, “Policy Research and Policy Outcomes Report on Gender Equality in Asia: Comparative Studies,” that evaluates the current state of gender equality in the region by studying the strengths and weaknesses of each country’s mechanisms in terms of laws and regulations, public participation, and public governance.

Researchers from members of the Asia Democracy Research Network, including the Centre for Policy Alternatives (Sri Lanka), Asian Barometer, and East Asia Institute (South Korea), also published “Civic Space in Asia: Emerging Issues and Policy Lessons from Six Asian Countries.” The report examines evidence of shrinking civic space in Sri Lanka, Burma, Taiwan, Pakistan, the Philippines, and India, and the successes and failures each country has experienced in protecting it.

Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law‘s “Thailand’s Collective Action Coalition Against Corruption” examines a private sector initiative, the Collective Action Coalition Against Corruption, to fight deep-seated corruption in Thailand.

The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism‘s (Malaysia) report, “Langkawi: Good Governance, The Pillar to a Successful Tourism Industry” focuses on issues afflicting governance and the sustainability of Langkawi’s tourism industry.

A study by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, “Future of Democracy and Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan – Developments in 2017,” provides an objective analysis of recent developments affecting Pakistan’s democratic order and civil-military relations.



The Access to Information Programme (Bulgaria) recently presented the results of its 2018 Active Transparency Rating, which aims to  evaluate how executive bodies fulfill their obligations for proactive disclosure of information online under the Access to Public Information Act in order to increase their active transparency.

The Association for International Affairs (Czech Republic) analyzed more than 7,700 media outlets and interviewed agenda setters and insiders to produce a major new report, “Central Europe for Sale: The Politics of China’s Influence,” that examines Chinese influence in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia. The Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI) published a new study, “Chinese Investments in Czech Republic and Poland,” which analyzes Chinese investments in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The Prague Security Studies Institute published a series of papers analyzing the impact of Russian investment in strategic economic sectors, including gas, nuclear power, banking, and defense, in the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Slovakia.

PSSI also analyzed the way disinformation platforms influenced the 2018 Czech presidential elections in “Czech Presidential Elections 2018 and the Role of Disinformation.”

Scholars affiliated with Political Capital (Hungary) published The Hungarian Far Right – Social Demand, Political Supply, and International Context, which examines far-right politics in Hungary and its two main players, the radical right Jobbik and populist right Fidesz parties.

Political Capital also published a new report, “The Year of Rearrangement – The Populist Right and the Far-Right in Contemporary Hungary,” that explores the dynamics of the relationship between Fidesz and Jobbik, examines the electoral base of both parties, gives an overview of the annual activities of the most significant far-right organizations, and elaborates on the local politics of Jobbik.

Central European University’s Roma Civil Monitor (Hungary) released civil society monitoring reports on the status of Roma and the impact of mainstream education policies on Roma populations in the Czech Republic, Romania, and Slovakia.



The Center for Opening and Development in Latin America (Argentina) published “Cuba Before its Third Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights,” which argues for the importance of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay to participate in Cuba’s next Universal Periodic Review to support human rights in the region. “Who Decides the Cuban Elections?” argues that the institutionalization of the “revolution” has left Cuba with an electoral bureaucracy that suffocates popular sovereignty, allowing its citizens no room for freedom of political expression.


Middle east and north africa

The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies published a policy brief on “Understanding Refugee Politics in Lebanon and Calls for Repatriation,” which outlines Lebanon’s current refugee and migration policies and and suggests a legal framework of action for improving refugee policies on the local level.


Democracy Research News is the electronic newsletter of the Network of Democracy Research Institutes (NDRI), a membership association of institutions that conduct and publish research on democracy and democratic development. It is one of several functional networks associated with the World Movement for Democracy. To submit comments or to inquire about joining the Network, please write to Melissa Aten at