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Political Research Exchange

Plebiscitary Leader Democracy: A Conceptual Alternative to Hybrid Regimes

Comparative Politics
 
Democracy
 
Democratisation
 
Populism
 
Freedom
 
Presenter
András Körösényi
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Attila Gyulai
National University of Public Service
Authors
Attila Gyulai
National University of Public Service
András Körösényi
Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Abstract
Recently, the concept of hybrid regime and hybridization has become an all-encompassing term to describe trends in contemporary political systems, which either backslide from democracy or are not full-fledged autocracies. In our paper, we argue that applying the concept of hybrid regime cannot satisfactorily explain several features of these regimes due to a few inner tensions and shortcomings of the framework. The paper addresses these problems and suggests that the concept of plebiscitary leader democracy offers a more realistic and insightful approach to understand ambiguous regimes. The concept of hybrid regime is a static, structure-oriented, teleological framework, which is more concerned with the access to power than the wielding of it. In contrast, more useful in several empirical cases, the concept of plebiscitary leader democracy focuses on how informal practices under formal conditions enable political leaders to practice authoritarian wield of power but democratically legitimize their rule through charismatic leadership at the same time. While for the contrasted approaches the question to be addressed is the same, that is, the merging of democratic and autocratic institutions and political practice, the concept of plebiscitary leader democracy explains recent trends in contemporary regimes by tackling the liberal democratic bias and the dichotomous classification that is characteristic of the hybrid regimes approach. Furthermore, the concept of plebiscitary leader democracy focuses on endogenous features and political agency to account for the recent changes in contemporary political systems.
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