Following up my post yesterday on how the changing international scene is proving a boon for African liberalization, Daniel Drezner rescues us from crippling optimism by noting how authoritarian regimes have adapted to the new era and found new ways to solidify their grip on power. Route #1: economics. Keep the economy humming, and folks really don't care that they don't get to vote. Route #2: use quasi-Democratic means to ramp up executive power. This appears to be a favorite in South America, where Presidents win office democratically, then host loaded "constitutional conventions" to remake the system to their liking (Drezner cites Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as the narrowly defeated attempt in Venezuela).
It's a good post, and shows that the forces of democracy can't get complacent.