The recent referendum in Turkey, in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed a narrow majority of votes to expand his presidential authority, is the latest example of a puzzling phenomenon: Democratically elected leaders who triumph in elections even as they move toward autocracy by undermining checks and balances and consolidating power.
Today, the most common way for a democracy to collapse is through the actions of an elected incumbent, not a coup or revolution. Hugo Chávez, elected to four terms as president of Venezuela, used his time in office to dismantle the institutions of Venezuelan democracy and expand his own authority. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has so thoroughly concentrated power in his own hands that many observers now refer to Russia as an “elected dictatorship.” And in Turkey, Mr. Erdogan appears to be following that well-trodden path.
This phenomenon, which experts call “authoritarianization,” highlights a deep vulnerability built into the structure of democracy itself. Once in power, unscrupulous leaders can sometimes manipulate the political environment to their own benefit, making it more likely that they will be victorious in future contests. By winning those elections, they gain the stamp of democratic legitimacy — even for actions that ultimately undermine democratic norms.
Manipulating and winning elections has become a kind of exploit in the rules of political legitimacy — a way for would-be autocrats to hack the system.
People around the world have become so attached to the idea of democracy that elections have become a de facto requirement for government legitimacy, said Milan Svolik, a Yale political scientist who studies authoritarianism and democratization. That has helped spread democracy across the globe.
Theresa May urges EU to retain trade terms for two years after Brexit
UK prime minister says transition period needed before new "partnership" with EU, in Brexit speech. ... read more
France's Macron signs labour reforms in law, defying protests
Protesters have condemned France's new labour laws, but they are a key part of the president's plans. ... read more
Erdogan protesters beaten and ejected from New York speech
Violence erupts at a New York hotel as protesters heckle Turkey's leader with chants of "terrorist". ... read more
Syrian activist and journalist daughter 'murdered' in Istanbul
The bodies of Orouba and Halla Barakat were found in their flat in Istanbul, Turkish police say. ... read more
Eurozone sees 'burst of activity' in September
The eurozone economy ended the third quarter of the year on a strong note, a survey indicates. ... read more
Uber London loses licence to operate
Ride-hailing app Uber is "not fit and proper" to operate in London, the transport regulator says. ... read more
L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt dies at 94
Liliane Bettencourt was suffering from dementia and died peacefully at home, her family say. ... read more
Catalonia referendum: Madrid court fines organisers
Organisers of the 1 October referendum face daily fines of up to €12,000 (£10,600; $14,300). ... read more
Southfields burned garden body: Two charged with murder
A man and woman appear in court following the discovery of charred remains in Southfields. ... read more
Neanderthal brains 'grew more slowly'
A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours. ... read more
Owls hold secret to ageless ears
Barn owls keep their acute sense of hearing into old age, scientists have discovered. ... read more
Why some Catalans want independence... and some don't
Four people in Catalonia's capital city, Barcelona, tell us what it means to be Catalan - and why some people there want independence from Spain. ... read more
German election: How young voters are shaking up the election
"Ignored" by parties, here's how young German voters are mobilising ahead of the federal election. ... read more
Deadly fire engulfs Russian hotel
Two people died when the three star Torn House hotel in Rostov-on-Don caught fire. ... read more
Spain's Gran Canaria battles forest fires
Spanish firefighters battle a huge forest fire on the island of Gran Canaria. ... read more
Sunday's election could see the first far-right party represented in Germany's parliament since WW2. ... read more
The case of a woman fined for peeing in an Amsterdam alleyway has sparked a debate about sexism. ... read more
New Turkish school textbooks omit evolution but include the idea of "jihad" - provoking a row. ... read more
The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) is making big gains in German politics. So what does it stand for? The BBC's Laurence Peter explains. ... read more
It's called "NetzDG" and critics worry that it will push social networks to delete posts - even if they are entirely legal. ... read more
Cillizza: President's tweets about a 'Russia hoax' contradict every intel agency and his own adviser
Before most people were awake this morning, the President of the United States was tweeting. About Russia. And Hillary Clinton. And the news media.
Mueller asks WH for documents pertaining to Trump presidency
Special counsel Robert Mueller has requested documents and information covering a range of events from President Donald Trump's White House, including two firings and an Oval Office meeting, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.
Concerns grow over Putin's large-scale military drills
The US and NATO allies are expressing concern over Russia staging large-scale exercises with Belarus along the borders of three NATO allies -- Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reports.
Ex-Trump campaign chair Manafort was wiretapped
US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.
WH replaces travel ban with country-specific restrictions
The Trump administration will unveil more tailored restrictions on travelers from certain countries as a replacement to the controversial travel ban, according to a senior administration official.
Betsy DeVos is changing the way schools handle sexual assaults
The Education Department announced Friday it is formally rescinding Obama-era guidance on how schools should handle sexual assaults under Title IX federal law.
What the GOP health care bill will do
Senate Republicans continue to push forward on a plan to hold a vote sometime next week on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill, which is sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, still lacks the 50 votes it needs -- although Graham this week expressed confidence that they would get there.
Trump goes to Alabama to stump for Strange
President Donald Trump is set to step into a Senate race in Alabama that will test whether his word is enough to sway Republican voters in a hard-fought Bible Belt contest.
N. Korea: We may test H-bomb over Pacific
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says President Donald Trump's remarks to the United Nations threatening the hermit country reflect "mentally deranged behavior," according to a statement released by North Korea's news agency, KCNA.
Kim Jong Un Responds to Trump, Says 'Dotard' Will 'Pay Dearly'
Hours later, North Korea's foreign minister reportedly said his country may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean. ... read more
Study: GOP Health Care Bill Means 21 Million More Uninsured
21 million fewer people will have insurance by 2026 if the latest Republican bill to repeal Obamacare becomes law, according to a new analysis. ... read more
Girl's Injury Sparks More Teams to Expand Ballpark Nets
The list of Major League Baseball teams expanding their safety nets to protect fans from balls and bats grew this week after a toddler got hit at Yankee Stadium. ... read more
The World's Most Powerful Woman Is Seen Rather Differently in Germany
Angela Merkel has been such a constant presence in German politics that a verb has even been derived from her name. ... read more
How Hurricanes Get Their Names
The history of named storms finds its complicated roots in WWII military traditions. ... read more
'Worse Than a War Zone': Medical Services on Dominica Crippled by Maria
Hurricane Maria left medical facilities on the Caribbean island of Dominica "worse than in a war zone," according to the country's leader. ... read more
Protesters Jeer, Disrupt Comey Speech at Howard University
Former FBI Director James Comey faced a gathering of chanting and jeering students at historically black-Howard University on Friday. ... read more
Hope in the Rubble: Survivors Rescued 2 Days After Mexico Quake
Their rescues marked jubilant moments in what was otherwise a desperate and often fruitless search. ... read more
Will Racial Slur by Juror Derail Georgia Execution?
Keith Tharpe is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday. His lawyers say a juror's "racial animus" means he should get a reprieve. ... read more
Iran's Reaction to Trump Speech: A New Ballistic Missile
President Hassan Rouhani's said Iran would "seek no one's permission to defend our land." ... read more
Aaron Hernandez Had Brain Disease CTE, Doctors Say
Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had CTE, a serious brain disease linked with concussions and head impacts, Boston University said. ... read more
Facebook Says It Will Hand Russia-Linked Ads to Congress as Trump Bemoans 'Hoax'
CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed measures the social media giant is taking to protect the integrity of future elections during a Facebook Live on Thursday. ... read more
Uber Loses License to Operate in London
The San Francisco-based company will not have its current permit renewed when it expires in eight days' time, officials said. ... read more
What Equifax Got Wrong — but Others Get Right
Why are your cat pictures on Facebook better protected than your entire personal financial history on Equifax? ... read more
They're Still Drawing Crazy-Looking Districts. Can't It Be Stopped?
Precise redistricting has allowed lawmakers to pick their voters. But the resulting maps have attracted lawsuits — and finally the consideration of the court. ... read more
After Mexico Quake, California Urges Residents to Prepare for 'The Big One'
Officials in California are trying to use the deadly Mexico earthquake to get residents to prepare for the "big one." ... read more
Women Forced Into Huts During Menstruation
Nepal's chhaupadi tradition, which secludes women in damp, dusty and dark huts during menstruation, is responsible for dozens of deaths a year due to snake bites, lack of oxygen and easily preventable diseases. A new generation of young women is trying to do away with the practice, but first they have to overcome hundreds of years of tradition. ... read more
Got a News Tip? We Want to Know About It
Do you have a story to share with us? Did you witness something you think should be reported? Reach out to our journalists by sending in your news tip. ... read more