Fig. 1. Photograph by Joachim F. Thurn, August 1991, Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F089030-0003, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

“You do not have to have emergency powers or a military coup for democracy to wither,” Aziz Huq, a constitutional-law professor at the University of Chicago, told me [Andrew Marantz]. “Most recent cases of backsliding, Hungary being a classic example, have occurred through legal means.” [Viktor] Orbán runs for reëlection every four years. In theory, there is a chance that he could lose. In practice, he has so thoroughly rigged the system that his grip on power is virtually assured. The political-science term for this is “competitive authoritarianism.” Most scholarly books about democratic backsliding (“The New Despotism,” “Democracy Rules,” “How Democracies Die”) cite Hungary, along with Brazil and Turkey, as countries that were consolidated democracies, for a while, before they started turning back the clock.[1]

If you really want to capture your democracy, you always start with the most important guardrail, and this is judicial review. The ruling majority understood that if you have an independent court in place, the constitutional capture will never work because the constitutional court would always stand in the way.[2]

I intend the category of illiberalism to include movements and regimes that merely pretend to a system of elections and the rule of so-called “law.” I mean to exclude fully authoritarian regimes such as China, North Korea, and Russia. The category includes the right-wing competitive authoritarian regime project in the United States, which I keep separately, but can also include leftist movements and regimes.

I am uncertain as to the status of countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The media coverage I see of these countries is so starkly one-sided, appearing to conform so completely with official U.S. policy, that I distrust it.

Seriously affected countries

(list under continuous development)

See also:

Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicted on charges of bribery, fraud, breach of trust,” Washington Post, November 21, 2019,

Raoul Wootliff, “AG announces Netanyahu to stand trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” Times of Israel, November 21, 2019,

Times of Israel, “TV report says top Likud leaders working behind the scenes to oust Netanyahu,” November 22, 2019,

Ruth Eglash, “Netanyahu to ask Israeli parliament for immunity from criminal charges,” Washington Post, January 1, 2020,

Times of Israel, “Netanyahu asks Knesset for immunity from prosecution, delaying indictment,” January 1, 2020,

Times of Israel, “In blow to Netanyahu, Knesset legal adviser said set to okay immunity debate,” January 10, 2020,

Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu indicted for corruption in three cases, in first for a sitting PM,” Times of Israel, January 28, 2020,

Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash, “Netanyahu scores comeback in Israeli election, still short of outright majority,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020,

Michael Bachner, “Knesset legal adviser hedges on bill to block Netanyahu premiership,” Times of Israel, March 4, 2020,

Jacob Magid, “Liberman says his party will back law that would bar Netanyahu from being PM,” Times of Israel, March 5, 2020,

Raoul Wootliff, “Final results show Likud with 36 seats, Netanyahu bloc short of majority with 58,” Times of Israel, March 5, 2020,

Gershom Gorenberg, “With a pandemic as cover, Netanyahu is carrying out a coup in Israel,” Washington Post, March 19, 2020,

Raoul Wootliff, “Netanyahu and Gantz said forming unity government; Blue and White collapses,” Times of Israel, March 26, 2020,

Ishaan Tharoor, “U.S. conservatives yearn for Orban’s Hungary,” Washington Post, August 4, 2021,

Jennifer Rankin, “ECJ dismisses Hungary and Poland’s complaints over rule-of-law measure,” Guardian, February 16, 2022,

Zsuzsanna Szelényi, “How Viktor Orbán Built His Illiberal State,” New Republic, April 5, 2022,

Joseph C. Sternberg, “Hungary Is No Model for Conservatives,” Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2022,

Roger Cohen, “Emmanuel Macron Defeats Marine Le Pen for Second Term as French President,” New York Times, April 24, 2022,

Zack Beauchamp, “Ron DeSantis is following a trail blazed by a Hungarian authoritarian,” Vox, April 28, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “The Orbanization of America: The U.S. right walks in Hungary’s path,” Washington Post, May 17, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “The Orbanization of America: Florida shadows Hungary’s war on LGBTQ rights,” Washington Post, May 18, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “The Orbanization of America: How to capture a democracy,” Washington Post, May 18, 2022,

David Broder, “The Future Is Italy, and It’s Bleak,” New York Times, July 22, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Italy is on its way to being run by ‘post-fascists,’” Washington Post, July 26, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Orban at CPAC brings the ‘far-right international’ into focus,” Washington Post, August 4, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Sweden’s election marks a new far-right surge in Europe,” Washington Post, September 16, 2022,

Michael Crowley, “Italy’s Hard-Right Lurch Raises New Concerns in Washington,” New York Times, September 26, 2022,

Yascha Mounk, “Italians Didn’t Exactly Vote for Fascism,” Atlantic, September 26, 2022,

Van Badham, “The election of Italy’s fascist-adjacent Giorgia Meloni is a public reminder that women can be just as awful as men,” Guardian, September 27, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “The mainstreaming of the West’s far right is complete,” Washington Post, September 27, 2022,

Thomas B. Edsall, “Seven Years of Trump Has the Right Wing Taking the Long View,” New York Times, September 28, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “‘Tropical Trump’ takes Brazil’s democracy to the brink,” Washington Post, September 30, 2022,

Tom Phillips, Andrew Downie, and Ana Ionova, “Brazil election: ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to face Jair Bolsonaro in run-off,” Guardian, October 2, 2022,

Barbara Moens and Cornelius Hirsch, “How the far-right got out of the doghouse,” Politico, October 3, 2022,

Adam Taylor, “Why Bolsonaro and the global right-wing love to hate on election polls,” Washington Post, October 3, 2022,

Molly Jong-Fast, “The Far Right’s Fake Feminist Gambit,” Atlantic, October 5, 2022,

Marc Fisher, “Leaders of democracies increasingly echo Putin in authoritarian tilt,” Washington Post, October 16, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Brazil’s election offers even more intense echo of U.S. culture war,” Washington Post, October 27, 2022,

Greg Sargent, “The hidden danger lurking behind Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover,” Washington Post, October 28, 2022,

Mauricio Saverese and Diane Jeantet, “Lula defeats Bolsonaro to again become Brazil’s president,” Associated Press, October 30, 2022,

Anthony Faiola, Paulina Villegas, and Gabriela Sá Pessoa, “Lula defeats Bolsonaro to win third term as Brazil’s president,” Washington Post, October 30, 2022,

Ishaan Tharoor, “After Israel’s election, it’s the Palestinians who need to vote,” Washington Post, November 2, 2022,

Michael Bachner, “With 86% of votes tallied, Netanyahu headed for decisive comeback victory,” Times of Israel, November 2, 2022,

Shayndi Raice, “Benjamin Netanyahu Wins Another Shot at Leading Israel,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2022,

Paola Tamma, “Hungary vows to overhaul its judiciary, hoping to unlock EU funds,” Politico, November 7, 2022,

Joseph C. Sternberg, “Orbán and the Collapse of the Trump Intellectuals,” Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2022,

Paola Tamma and Jakob Hanke Vela, “Hungary’s EU cash at risk after European Commission concludes reforms fell short,” Politico, November 23, 2022,

Carrie Keller-Lynn, “Netanyahu puts extremist homophobic politician in charge of Israel’s Jewish identity,” Times of Israel, November 27, 2022,

Paola Tamma, “Hungary vetoes Ukraine aid, EU seeks alternative solution,” Politico, December 6, 2022,

Kate Connolly and Philip Oltermann, “German police raids target group accused of far-right plot to overthrow state,” Guardian, December 7, 2022,

Alice Speri, “‘We’re Coming for You’: Italy’s Neofascists Target Journalists as They Assume Power,” Intercept, December 7, 2022,

Paola Tamma, “Council pushes Commission to think again about Hungary funds-freeze,” Politico, December 7, 2022,

Matthew Karnitschnig, “Germans on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” Politico, December 8, 2022,

Paola Tamma, “EU strikes deal with Hungary, reducing funding freeze to get Ukraine aid approved,” Politico, December 12, 2022,

Diane Jeantet, “Bolsonaro supporters clash with police in Brazil’s capital,” Associated Press, December 13, 2022,

Gabriel Stargardter, “Gun-loving Bolsonaristas challenge Lula’s pledge to disarm Brazil,” Reuters, December 13, 2022,

Kareem Fahim and Zeynep Karatas, “Turkish court sentences Erdogan rival to prison for insulting officials,” Washington Post, December 14, 2022,

Isabel Kershner, “Israel’s New Hard-Line Government Raises Hackles Ahead of Inauguration,” New York Times, December 28, 2022,

Ron Kampeas, “Netanyahu’s new government could lose a critical constituency: American conservatives,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, December 29, 2022,

David Horovitz, “Hanukkah 2022, when Netanyahu began turning out the lights on Israeli democracy,” Times of Israel, January 1, 2023,

Jeremy Sharon, “Justice minister unveils plan to shackle the High Court, overhaul Israel’s judiciary,” Times of Israel, January 4, 2023,

Anthony Faiola and Marina Dias, “Assault on presidential palace, congress challenges Brazil’s democracy,” Washington Post, January 8, 2023,

Diane Jeantet and David Biller, “Pro-Bolsonaro rioters storm Brazil’s top government offices,” Associated Press, January 9, 2023,

Anthony Faiola, Samantha Schmidt, and Marina Dias, “Brazil’s military blocked arrests of Bolsonaro rioters, officials say,” Washington Post, January 14, 2023,

Isabel Kershner, “Israel’s Supreme Court Orders Removal of Netanyahu Minister,” New York Times, January 18, 2023,

Carrie Keller-Lynn, “Netanyahu fires Deri ‘with a heavy heart’ after High Court nixes convicted minister,” Times of Israel, January 22, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Netanyahu drags Israeli democracy into the illiberal mire,” Washington Post, January 25, 2023,

Jeremy Sharon, “AG: Netanyahu barred from dealing with judicial overhaul due to corruption trial,” Times of Israel, February 2, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Earthquake’s tragic aftermath puts spotlight on Turkey’s leader,” Washington Post, February 8, 2023,

Karin Fischer, “The power and vulnerability of colleges amid rising authoritarianism,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 8, 2023,

Jeremy Sharon, “Former AG: Netanyahu seeking to use judicial reform to bring trial to improper end,” Times of Israel, February 9, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Jimmy Carter’s warning: Without peace, Israel must face ‘apartheid,’” Washington Post, February 24, 2023,

Jennifer Rubin, “Israel has angered its closest supporters,” Washington Post, March 1, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “The West shrugs as a democracy dies,” Washington Post, March 1, 2023,

Carrie Keller-Lynn, “MKs approve 1st reading of override clause, in major step toward judicial overhaul,” Times of Israel, March 13, 2023,

Toby Axelrod, “In Berlin, Netanyahu faces tough questions from a key ally, while Israelis abroad protest,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 16, 2023,

Emanuel Fabian, “Hundreds of elite IDF reservists stop showing up for duty over judicial overhaul,” Times of Israel, March 19, 2023,

Times of Israel, “‘Red line we won’t accept’: Levin warns Court not to block judicial appointments bill,” March 21, 2023,

Tracy Wilkinson, “Longtime Israel backers in U.S. turn outraged critics — but Biden administration remains distant,” Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2023,

Shira Rubin and Steve Hendrix, “Netanyahu vows to push through judicial overhaul amid nationwide protests,” Washington Post, March 23, 2023,

Dan Williams, “Israel ratifies law limiting conditions for a Netanyahu ouster,” Reuters, March 23, 2023,

Times of Israel, “AG says Netanyahu is breaking the law and in violation of conflict of interest deal,” Times of Israel, March 24, 2023,

Steve Hendrix, “Netanyahu’s political touch eludes him as Israel spirals into chaos,” Washington Post, March 26, 2023,

Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin, “Netanyahu fires defense minister who called for halt to judicial overhaul,” Washington Post, March 26, 2023,

Patrick Kingsley, “Israel Boils as Netanyahu Ousts Minister Who Bucked Court Overhaul,” New York Times, March 26, 2023,

Bernard Avishai, “Has Benjamin Netanyahu’s Assault on Israeli Democracy Been Stopped?” New Yorker, March 27, 2023,

Dov Lieber, Aaron Boxerman, and Shayndi Raice, “Israel’s Netanyahu Suspends Judicial Overhaul After Mass Protests,” Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2023,

Maayan Lubell, “Netanyahu agrees to delay Israel’s judicial overhaul until next parliament session,” Reuters, March 27, 2023,

Ben Sales, “Protests and strike rock Israel as future of Netanyahu’s judicial reforms falls into doubt,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, March 27, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Israel’s democratic crisis is about more than just Netanyahu,” Washington Post, March 27, 2023,

Tracy Wilkinson and Laura King, “Israel’s protests, Netanyahu and the crisis his government unleashed,” Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Netanyahu’s Israel finds kindred spirits in Hungary and Poland,” Washington Post, March 28, 2023,

Jacob Magid, “Biden: Israel ‘cannot continue down this road’; no Netanyahu invite in ‘near term,’” Times of Israel, March 29, 2023,

Ishaan Tharoor, “Biden’s Summit for Democracy is a tough hill to climb,” Washington Post, March 29, 2023,

  1. [1]Andrew Marantz, “Does Hungary Offer a Glimpse of Our Authoritarian Future?” New Yorker, June 27, 2022,
  2. [2]Tomasz Tadeusz Koncewicz, quoted in Ishaan Tharoor, “Netanyahu’s Israel finds kindred spirits in Hungary and Poland,” Washington Post, March 28, 2023,

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