Perils of hybrid regimes

ByUmair Jalali

Teaches in The Royal Colosseum and is an avid sports fan


December 10, 2022

Perils of hybrid regimes

Umair Jalali describes a rather relevant phenomenon

Essentially Perils of hybrid regimes imply a transitory phase with an inbuilt assertion that one segment of this regime will ultimately become decisively dominant. This understanding may clearly render the fact that hybrid regime in inherently an unstable arrangement as segments incorporated in it represent divergent interests and strata of a polity and they hardly have a point of conversion. Moreover it clearly points out that their intent is competitive in nature instead of collaborative with the result that a hybrid regime carries seeds of destruction in its wake. It also shows that the segments that agree to become part of a hybrid regime are under tremendous pressure of circumstances, ambitions and considerations that compel them to take such plunge. In this context it is important to point out that hybrid regime stands in direct contrast to pluralist dispensation as a pluralist arrangement has a lot in common though it represents different strands of the same commonality.

Usually one segment of the hybrid regime is unusually potent in many respects but lacks the kind of general acceptability popularly known as legitimacy and looks for such an attribute in the other willing segment that lacks the kind of potency possessed by it. In this sense the hybrid system becomes a distorted combination of popular aspirations and authoritarianism that is exercised in the name of representing the collective will of the people. This exercise is strongly supported by highly effective propaganda practices that go on relentlessly. Hybrid regimes betray tremendous optimism about achieving national goals and make tall promises about eradicating all evils existing in the polity blaming all ‘others’ for the misfortunes.

In the current wave of democracy it is difficult to avoid it therefore hybrid regimes use democratic practices such as elections to grab power but their method of doing so is to rig elections and also to depend heavily upon electables. They use the state apparatus to manipulate delimitation system of constituencies and plot them in a way that their favoured politicians are returned as public representatives in elected assemblies. A huge reservoir of funds earmarked as development grants are put at the disposal of public representatives to grease their palms and this enticement is indeed very alluring as it is not accountable at any stage by state authorities. It is widely recognised that the pull of joining the ranks of high and mighty never fails to attract willing candidates who fall in line when contacted by the representatives of the powerful segment of the hybrid regimes.

Pakistan has been in the grip of hybrid regimes after the exit of Musharraf regime that also practically spelt the end of direct military rule due to changed internal, regional and international circumstances. Though the two political dispensations managed by the two large political parties of the country could not be labeled exclusively as hybrid regimes but there is hardly any doubt that both of them bore strong mark of the influence of the army in their affairs. Consequently, both were not allowed free hand and when the second dispensation tried to show extraordinary independent streak it was summarily dispensed away with. Interestingly, the primary leadership of both these parties was badly maligned and prosecuted but somehow not only managed to survive but was able to fight another day.

Though the powerful segment was able to dislodge the irritating democratic civilian dispensations but in the process it resolved to root them out completely and bring in a replacement it thought would prove conducive to its ambitions about running the country. Moreover, this segment started to assume an institutional control of the state reminiscent of the old military regimes just to ensure that nothing was left to chance. The new arrangement was launched with plenty of fanfare though with equal amount of hoodwinking and it was supported to the hilt through incessant media campaign. The state authority was galvanised to employ its coercive power in its extreme to muzzle any opposition to it.

To begin with though the shaping and installing a hybrid regime proved a success but it soon started to unravel primarily due to the volatility of its leadership and the unpredictability of its actions. The close association of the high-ranking serving officers of the powerful segment rendered them liable to exposure when things went awry providing the weak segment with an alibi to dump its failures on them. This is precisely the fatal flaw of the hybrid regimes as there are many to take credit for so-called hollow successes but no one is willing to face the blame of abject failure. It is quite clear that hybrid regimes spell disaster for the stronger segment and, ironically, strengthen the blundering weaker segment on its expense in a classic case of double jeopardy. TW


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