Protesters in Yangon, Myanmar (Image: SOPA/Sipa USA/Theint Mon Soe)

The conventional wisdom these days is that autocracy is ascendant and is on the decline. But the superficial appeal of the rise-of-autocracy thesis belies a more complex reality — and a bleaker future for autocrats.

As people see that unaccountable rulers prioritise their own interests over the public’s, the popular demand for rights-respecting democracy remains strong.

In country after country — Myanmar, Sudan, Russia, Belarus, Nicaragua, Poland, Uganda, even Kazakhstan before protests seemed to have been hijacked by a governmental power struggle — large numbers of people have recently taken to the streets, even at the risk of being arrested or shot. There are few rallies for autocratic rule.