Democratic and authorizing regimes may be distinguished both in terms of their objectives as well as means to achieve them. Authoritarian regimes decide what is good for individuals. The ruling elite impose their values on society irrespective of its members’ wishes. Authoritarian refers to a form of government which insists on unqualified obedience, conformity and coercion. It is in essence negation of democracy.
When power is based on consent, respected willingly, and recognized by wider masses, it is legitimate and binding. This is called authority. Authority is power raised in a moral or ethical level. Authority involves legitimate exercise of power, and in that sense it arises ‘from below’. Democratic regime this type of authority and are authoritative. When a regime exercises authority regardless of popular consent and with the help of force, it can be called authorizing.
As such authoritarianism is a belief in, or practice of, government ‘from above’ the practice of government ‘from above’ is also associated with monarchica absolutism, traditional dictatorships, most single party regimes, and most forms of military regimes.
They all are authorizing in the serest that they are concerned with the repression of opposition and political liberty. Authorizing regimes are distinguished from the totalitarian regimes. Totalitarian regimes depict modern dictatorship in terms of a model government by complete and uniform regimentation of all aspects of political, social and intellectual life and in these respects transcending by far the earlier manifestations of absolute or autocratic or despotic or tyrannical regimes and their capacity to control and mobilize the masses. In this sense totalitarianism is truly a phenomenon of twentieth century.
The term has been applied to the three radical dictatorial regimes of the inter- war period: Italian Fascism, Gentian National Socialism and Stalinism in Russia. It follows that though totalitarian regimes are authorizing – all authoritarian regimes are not necessarily totalitarian.
No doubt the authoritarian regimes are concerned with the repression of opposition and political liberty. Unlike the totalitarian regimes, these regimes do not aim to achieve far more radical goal of obliterating the distinction between the state and civil society. Authoritarian regimes tend to tolerate a significant range of economic, religious and other freedoms.
The Characteristics of Authoritarian Regimes
i. Authoritarian regimes are likely to employ force also in their relations with other countries. Since institutions of such regimes are not based on the participation of the people, and are not accountable to people, the moderating influence of public opinion is not effective. As such the authoritarian regimes do not help the cause of international peace.
ii. The authoritarian regimes are characterized by low and limited political mobilisation. Depoliticisation of the mass of the citizen’s falls into the intent of the ruling elite, fits with their mentality, and reflects the character of the components of the limited pluralism supporting them. Based on force, authoritarian regimes are likely to use violence against the citizens who do not receive any importance in the governance. Powers is controlled, changes of government or even of leaders, and is not smooth and peaceful under authoritarian regimes. Such changes take place as a result of revolutions. Coup has been a normal feature as far as the authoritarian regimes in Africa are concerned.
iii. Authoritarian regimes are likely to employ force also in their relations with other counties. Since institutions of such regimes are not based on the participation of the people, and are not accountable to people, the moderating influence of public opinion is not effective. As such the authoritarian regimes do not help the cause of international peace.
iv. The authoritarian regimes are characterized by low and limited political mobilization. Depoliticisation of the mass of the citizen falls into the intent of the ruling elite, fits with their mentality, and reflects the character of the components of the limited pluralism supporting them.
v. Contrary to the democratic regimes which represent almost unlimited pluralism in institutionalized form, the authoritarian regimes represent limited pluralism. The limitation of pluralism may be legal or de facto, implemented more or less effectively, confined to strictly political groups or extended to interest groups.
vi. Moreover, political power is not legally accountable through such groups to the citizens, even when, it might be quite responsive to them. This is in contrast to democratic regimes, where the political forces are formally dependent on the support of constituencies.
Authoritarian Regimes in the post- Second World War Period
Authoritarian regimes have been mostly established in the developing states of Latin America, the Middle East Africa and South East Asia. Developed states of the West like Spain, Portugal and Greece, however, have also experienced it in the post World War period. These regimes more than political, economic, cultural or ideological factors- have been dependent on the use of military power and systematic repression. Democratic institutions-both formal and informal have been non existent.
These military regimes have been mostly under the control a junta comprising of the officers of the three wings of armed forces like in Argentina during 1978-1983 or in present day Myanmar. There are other forms of regimes where a military backed personalized dictatorship is established. In such cases a single individual acquires per-eminence within the junta or regime, often being bolstered by a cult of personality drawing on charismatic authority. The military regimes headed by Colonel Papadopoulas in Greece, General Pinochet in Chile, General Abacha in Nigeria, General Zia-Ul-Haq in Pakistan, Ft. Lt.
Jerry Rawlings in Ghana, Sergeant Samuel Doe in Liberia are amount the pertinent examples. Still other forms of such regime are one where the civil regime survives primarily due to the backing of armed forces. In such cases military often prefers to rule behind the scenes and exercise power covertly through a Civilianized leadership.
Zaire under Mobutu, who came to power in a military coup in 1965, but later allowed the popular movement of the revolution in the sixties can be cited as an example and so is the case of Egypt which experienced transition from military regimes to authoritarian civil rule under Gamel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, both military figures, in the 1960’s and 1970’s.