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The Myth of Khaki Democracy

NEW YORK – Egypt and Thailand have little in common, except for one thing. In both countries, at different times, educated people who pride themselves on being democrats have ended up applauding military coups against elected governments. They had resisted oppressive military regimes for many years. But, in Thailand in 2006, as in Egypt last month, they were happy to see their political leaders ousted by force.

This perversity is not without reason. The elected leaders in both countries, Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand and Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, were good examples of illiberal democrats: they tended to view their electoral success as a mandate to manipulate constitutional norms and behave like autocrats.