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Elections, Political Parties, and Civil Society in Authoritarian Regimes Essay

Within many Authoritarian Regimes, the conditions are very similar and the political participation becomes severely limited. The following essay will attempt to briefly capture a few key characteristics of two countries in terms of elections, political parties, and the role of civil societies within the state. The two countries that I will be discussing are Iran and China.

First of all, after reading page 80-81 in our Comparative Politics textbook written by Carol Ann Drogus and Stephen Orvis, it soon became clear to me that Authoritarian Regime structuring has a heavy political saliency in terms of elections, political parties, and the role of civil societies. It seems that if elections even manage to exist in an authoritarian regime, they do not determine who holds the majority of power in the state. For example, on page 80, the textbook discusses how 1906 a new democratic state within Iran was created in order to provide a real legislature with elections.

This democracy was soon polarized, and the central state has limited sovereignty over the other provinces and was able to control most economic profit and most of the military power. Although elections were ushered into Iran’s political system, they had little influence on the government itself. On page 81, the textbook discusses how a left-wing prime minister named Mohammad Mosaddeq was elected in 1951, but due the primary regime’s influence and power, they overthrew this elected prime minister because he did not support their interests.

This example shows that even if an election determines something within an Authoritarian Regime, this determination may not last for very long or may not have any power in the first place. An elected official such as Mosaddeq can be overthrown at any point if the people that truly hold the power within a state decide too. This brings me to the next topic of political parties. Within the country of China, it is clear to me that the political system of the Authoritarian Regime has created an extremely powerful political party with little to no opposition.

Elections have almost no affect and are just a disguise for the Chinese Communist Party to make the real decisions affecting their country, especially in terms of the economy. As discussed on page 86, after a series of wars ended, the Communist Party of China soon created a Soviet-style command economy with a huge bureaucracy that controlled most of the society. This society is interesting because as time went by, more and more economic freedoms were created, but political freedoms became increasingly denied.

It is ironic that one can live in China and possess private property, but when it comes to the decisions governing that person’s society and economic policy, that same individual will have zero rights whatsoever. The book also discusses how these socio-political conditions have created a sense of political uncertainty and fear. This brings me to my final topic of civil society. It is a huge risk for citizens within an Authoritarian Regime to form organized and nonviolent groups in pursuit of political reform.

Citizens tend to fear the consequences of their actions and punishment from their government, and when they do attempt to reform, it tends to end up violent. For example, many protests within China in the past century have ended in massive bloodshed or violence. I do not recall ever hearing of a widely successful nonviolent civil society causing politically salient changes within an Authoritarian Regime. I believe that I have never heard of such a thing because civil societies do not have much impact on a society that is restricted by an Authoritarian Regime’s influence and political/economic desires.


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