The days of the military strongman are on the wane around the world - few people would be sad about that.
But what's on the rise is in some ways more sinister: authoritarian regimes that lay a thin veneer of elections over fundamentally undemocratic systems. Controlling the media and courts, and putting a stranglehold on dissent, these governments run elections that are mostly free on the day but are certainly not fair. President Putin in Russia operates possibly the best example worldwide.
Fiji will soon go to the polls, its first election since the military seized control almost eight years ago. With the Fiji election just three days before our own, what is in many ways the most controversial election in our region is likely to pass without much notice here in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Government is playing a significant role in supporting the military Government in Fiji to be election ready. But what will the legacy of that support be?
New Zealand involvement is certainly lending legitimacy to the process, but as Fiji brings Frank Bainimarama's chapter of military strongman rule to an end, will it be replaced with a Putin-style democratic sham, or with real democracy?
To answer this it's important to remember something that's very easy to forget in New Zealand where we are accustomed to taking basic human rights for granted: there's a lot more to true democracy than simply holding an election. Freedom of speech, an independent media, rule of law, a constitution that respects human rights - all are essential, and all have been under siege in Fiji since Bainimarama took power in the December 2006 coup.
Without these basic human rights protections in place an election could be merely window dressing over a fundamentally undemocratic system. So how is it looking now for true democracy in Fiji?
It's important to say that improvements have undoubtedly been made. Prime Minister Bainimarama recently relinquished his official military role, the military censors are out of media offices and a lot of positive work has been done on the administration of the elections.
But it's also important to keep that progress in context.
Just last year, the Fiji Government had the new draft constitution - New Zealand aid-funded and drawn up by Fijian and international legal experts after wide consultation - confiscated and burned. A government replacement version was swiftly enacted, guaranteeing the military's future constitutional role and granting government officers immunity from prosecution for crimes committed during military rule.
This is a favourite technique of outgoing military regimes, but the breadth of the immunity was almost unprecedented internationally, one of the many ways the new constitution fails to meet basic international human rights standards.
And what of the opposition? There has been a lot of talk about the onerous requirements placed on parties wanting to contest the election. From the minimum requirement for party members (10 times higher than in New Zealand), to the ability of the government to deregister opposition parties for any infringement whatsoever, to the restrictions on who can stand - the deck has certainly been stacked against opposition parties.
The most recent former Prime Ministers (Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry) have been effectively barred from contesting the elections by questionable legal proceedings.
But probably even more concerning is the continued gagging of critical voices - such voices are an essential feature of all true democracies.
While the years of direct media censorship are now over, they have left behind a culture of self-censorship fuelled by the prosecution and harassment of journalists who speak out.
No newspaper would dare print this article in Fiji, and New Zealand journalists who have reported critically on Fiji remain blacklisted from the country.
Combined with a lack of freedom for the public to gather or to speak freely, real concerns over the independence of the courts, and the repeated failure of the police to investigate credible claims of torture by security forces - this adds up to a climate of fear in Fiji that is certainly not conducive to open democratic participation. Try, if you can, to imagine the New Zealand election taking place in such a context.
So will the New Zealand Government's support for the elections help move Fiji to true democracy, or simply lend legitimacy to an essentially undemocratic "democracy"? To play a genuinely positive role the New Zealand Government needs to focus on far more than a well-run election day. It needs to work with the Fiji government and hold it to the basic democratic standards of a free media, freedom of speech, independent courts, the rule of law and a government that is free from interference by the military.
Grant Bayldon is executive director of Amnesty International in New Zealand.