A hybrid regime is a mixed type of political regime that is often created as a result of an incomplete transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one. Hybrid regimes combine autocratic features with democratic ones and can simultaneously hold political repressions and regular elections. The term hybrid regime arises from a polymorphic view of political regimes that opposes the dichotomy of autocracy or democracy. Hybrid regimes are characteristic of resource countries such as petro-states. Those regimes are stable and tenacious.
Western researchers analyzing hybrid regimes pay attention to the decorative nature of democratic institutions (elections do not lead to a change of power, different media broadcast government point of view and the opposition in parliament votes the same way as the ruling party, among others), from which it is concluded that authoritarianism is the basis of hybrid regimes. However, hybrid regimes also imitate dictatorship while having a relatively lower level of violence.
The third wave of democratization has led to the emergence of hybrid regimes that are neither fully democratic nor fully authoritarian. Neither the concept of illiberal democracy, nor the concept of electoral authoritarianism fully describes these hybrid regimes.
Since the end of the Cold War, such regimes have become the most common among undemocratic. At the end of the process of transformation of authoritarian regimes, limited elections appear in one way or another when liberalization occurs. Liberal democracy has always been assumed while in practice this process basically froze "halfway".
In relation to regimes that were previously called "transitional" in the 1980s, the term hybrid regime began to be used and was strengthened because according to Thomas Carothers the majority of "transitional countries" are neither completely dictatorial nor aspiring to democracy and by and large they can not be called transitional. They are located in the politically stable gray zone, changes in which may not take place for decades". Thus, he stated that hybrid regimes must be considered without the assumption that they will ultimately become democracies. These hybrid regimes were called semi-authoritarianism or electoral authoritarianism.
One of the first to use the concept of "hybrid regime" was the sociologist Elemér Hankiss when analyzing the Goulash Communism of János Kádár's Hungary.
According to Guillermo O'Donnell, Philippe C. Schmitter, Larry Diamond and Thomas Carothers, signs of a hybrid regime include:
- The presence of external attributes of democracy (elections, multi-party system, legal opposition).
- Low degree of representation of the interests of citizens in the process of political decision-making (incapacity of associations of citizens, for example trade unions, or that they are in state control).
- Low level of political participation.
- The declarative nature of political rights and freedoms (formally there is in fact difficult implementation).
- Low level of trust in political institutions by citizens.
Some countries that have been described as hybrid regimes include Colombia, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, Montenegro, Nigeria, Bangladesh,
 Pakistan, Russia, Serbia, Tanzania, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Venezuela and Uganda.
There are many different terms that describe specific types of hybrid regimes.
- Regime with weak pluralism syndrome – regular elections, with high level of competition among the elite, weak political participation and corruption of elites. According to Thomas Carothers, it is typical for such countries as Albania, Ecuador, Madagascar, Moldova, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Thailand and Ukraine.
- Regime with a dominant power syndrome (system with a dominant party, dominant-power politics) – the presence of decorative democratic institutions, weak opposition and erosion of borders between the state and the ruling party. In the work (Suttner, R. 2006), these countries are Angola (MPLA), Bangladesh (Awami League), Cambodia (Cambodian People's Party), Japan (Liberal Democratic Party), Kazakhstan (Nur Otan), Malaysia (Barisan Nasional), Montenegro (Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro), Russia (United Russia), Serbia (Serbian Progressive Party), Singapore (People's Action Party), Slovakia (Direction – Social Democracy), South Africa (African National Congress), Turkey (Justice and Development Party) and Zimbabwe (ZANU–PF).
- Guillermo O'Donnell's delegative democracy – the absolutization of the status of president as head of state, with the presence of the broadest possible powers, his regular excess of the constitutional framework and weak political participation of citizens. Guillermo O'Donnell cites countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Philippines and South Korea. Fareed Zakaria noted that a similar type of regime was in Russia during the reign of Boris Yeltsin.
- Philippe C. Schmitter's dictablanda – citizens have individual political rights in a multi-party system, but power is not controlled by citizens. Countries such as Ivory Coast and Kenya are cited as an example.
- Philippe C. Schmitter's democradura – elections are held regularly, but there is no real political competition. The regimes of the 1980s–1990s in countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala as well as Putinism in Russia are cited as an example.
Different authors wrote about electoral authoritarianism or the so-called hybrid regimes (Levitsky and Way 2002; T. Karl 1995; L. Diamond 1999; A. Schedler 2002), but this phenomenon is not new and most authoritarian governments that conduct elections are not hybrids, but are successful well-institutionalized authoritarian regimes. Democratic elements can simultaneously serve authoritarian purposes and contribute to democratization.
Electoral authoritarianism means that democratic institutions are imitative and, due to numerous systematic violations of liberal democratic norms, in fact adhere to authoritarian methods. Electoral authoritarianism can be competitive and hegemonic, and the latter does not necessarily mean election irregularities. A. Schedler calls electoral authoritarianism a new form of authoritarian regime, not a hybrid regime or illiberal democracy. Moreover, a purely authoritarian regime does not need elections as a source of legitimacy while non-alternative elections, appointed at the request of the ruler, are not a sufficient condition for considering the regime conducting them to be hybrid.
Full-fledged liberal-democracies are built on key things such as universal suffrage, free and fair elections held on a regular basis, more than one ruling political party, numerous independent media, support for human rights and the process unhindered by elites or external influential figures voter decision making. The absence of any key element of democracy makes it possible to classify the regime as a broken democracy, the most common type of problem democracy being illiberal democracy.
The researchers conducted a comparative analysis of political regimes around the world (Samuel Finer 1970), in developing countries (Almond and Coleman, 1960), among Latin America (Collier 1979) and West Africa regimes (Zolberg, 1966). Types of non-democratic regimes are described (Linz, 2000, originally published in 1975 and Perlmutter, 1981). Huntington and Moore (Huntington and Moore, 1970) discuss the one-party system issue. Hermet (Guy Hermet, Rose, & Rouquie 1978) explores how elections are held in such authoritarian regimes, which are nominally democratic institutions.
"Hybrid regimes" (Diamond 2002), "competitive authoritarianism" (Levitsky and Way 2002) and "electoral authoritarianism" (Schedler, 2006) as well as how officials who came to power in an undemocratic way form election rules (Lust-Okar and Jamal, 2002), institutionalize electoral frauds (Lehoucq 2003, Schedler 2002) and manipulate the economy (L. Blaydes 2006, Magaloni 2006) in order to win the election and stay in power.
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