The Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States today released Autocrats Within, an in-depth analysis of the autocratic threats facing the two most consequential national elections of 2023: Turkey and Poland. 

In their new report, authors Nathan Kohlenberg, Krystyna Sikora, and Josh Rudolph detail the autocratic tactics leaders in the two countries have used to consolidate power. In Turkey, President Erdoğan’s AKP has enacted a system of corruption that has enabled him to unfairly influence elections. In Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński’s PiS has blurred the lines between party, state, and church, tilting the playing field in the party’s favor. As we head into the 2023 elections, both Turkey and Poland’s democracies are at risk, and their elections might move from “unfair and free” to “unfair and unfree.”  

“This year’s elections in Turkey and Poland will be a key test of democratic resilience in two countries where the incumbent regimes have dismantled key institutions and safeguards,” report author Nathan Kohlenberg said. “While there is a lot to be hopeful about when it comes to the defense of democracy globally, especially when it comes to external threats from authoritarian powers like Russia and China, we must also acknowledge domestic threats to democracy and the backsliding happening in countries that have been democracies, including some of our allies.” 

As the war in Ukraine rages on, the outcomes of these two elections, as well as whether they are conducted freely and fairly, will have major consequences for the EU and NATO. 

“As important fortresses on Europe’s eastern flank, Poland and Turkey represent gateways to the democratic and free world. However, both countries have neglected their promise to safeguard democracy when it comes to autocratic efforts within their own borders. With Europe’s stability more vulnerable than ever because of the war in Ukraine and increased polarization, it is time to hold Poland and Turkey accountable for upholding democratic standards. This starts with ensuring that both countries hold free and fair elections,” report author Krystyna Sikora said.  

Read Autocrats Within here:

Tune in to the launch event on Thursday, April 27, at 10:00 am ET/ 1600 CET. Register here: 

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.