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Direct democracy, ‘plebiscitarianism’ and military rule: Is the Portuguese normative view of democracy multidimensional?

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In its annual report, Freedom House stresses how ‘[...] after years of major gains, the share of free countries has declined over the past decade, while the share of not free countries has risen’. In this depiction of the profound crisis of mainstream political parties, Portugal is a clear exception: unlike in Spain with Podemos, Italy with the Movimento 5 Stelle and Greece with Syriza, new anti-system parties did not find the political spaces in which to operate. However, we need to understand whether the absence of such parties in parliament corresponds with a matching absence in public opinion of support for forms of disfigured democracy and underlying factors. This article is based on quantitative methods and multilevel analysis. Findings indicate that in Portugal the normative view of democracy is consistent on many levels with that of Europeans in general: unanimous support for democracy (90%), alongside backing for different forms of democracy – direct democracy (80%), partial democracy (50%, plebiscitary and technocratic) and authoritarian rule (18%). Nevertheless, we can still detect differences in the underlying factors on the level of illegitimacy and cognitive and political mobilization.
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Keywords: Portugal; authoritarianism; crisis of democracy; direct democracy; disintermediation; populism; representative democracy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: ISCTE – Instituto Universit├írio de Lisboa

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • The Portuguese Journal of Social Science opens a gateway for the international community to engage with a high calibre of academic work in social sciences produced by Portuguese scholarship. Previous to the publication of this journal, this work remained largely inaccessible to an international readership due to issues with language and translation.
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