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After the dramatic events in Eastern Europe in 1989–1990 and their repercussions in other parts of the world, many of these authoritarian regimes disappeared. To a large extent, they were replaced by liberal democracies. Nevertheless, in some regions, most conspicuously in the Middle East, nondemocratic regimes persisted (e.g., the monarchies and sheikdoms in the Arabian peninsula, the personalistic military dictatorships in Iraq, Lybia, and Syria, or the "semicompetitive" systems in Egypt and Tunisia). In other areas, as in parts of the former Soviet Union, communist regimes were transformed into "post-totalitarian" but still harshly authoritarian and personalistic "new oligarchic" or "sultanistic" ones, In other cases, the newly established democratic forms of government remained defective with respect to important aspects such as truly "free and fair" elections, meaningful popular participation, and the guarantee of the rule of law and basic human rights. Some authors termed these regimes purely "electoral," "illiberal," or "delegative" democracies. In most cases, they resemble the former "semi-competitive" or even "new oligarchic" types.

Thus, at the beginning of the twenty-first century authoritarianism has been on the decline and at least the worst totalitarian forms of rule, with the possible exception of some fundamentalist "theocratic" ones, seem to be over. New variants, however, may yet occur and there remain certain authoritarian and populist dangers in some of the longer-established democracies as well.


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Dirk Berg-Schlosser

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: A-series and B-series to Ballistic Missiles - Categories Of Ballistic MissileAuthoritarianism - Overview - Dominant Characteristics Of Political Systems, Specific Forms Of Authoritarian Rule, Outlook, Bibliography