Democracy’s ‘shafts of light’ in Africa and MENA



Credit: Arab Center

The 2022 Democracy Index, a ranking by EIU, gave the Middle East and North Africa the lowest score of any region in the world. In second place was the rest of Africa. Both regions are now close to their lowest scores since the index began in 2006. But a closer look at last year’s events across the continent offers hope for change, The Economist notes:

Indeed, the torch of democracy is dimming across both regions. Yet there are shafts of light. Democracy remains popular, on average, across the continent (even if coups sometimes garner support). In sub-Saharan Africa about 70% of people tell Afrobarometer [a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)], that they prefer democratic government to any other sort…..

Drawing on recently collected data from Afrobarometer, a non-partisan research network, identified four themes prevalent in citizens’ attitudes about the democratic process:

  • First, most citizens favor elections over alternative ways to select leaders.
  • Second, they see their previous election as having been flawed.
  • Third, citizens expect elections to feature violence.
  • And fourth, they want candidates to focus on making the country better.

For the democratic optimist, these public opinion surveys offer hope. In these countries, citizens are likely to base their voting decisions on their living conditions, they write for The Conversation. They will consider whether their basic needs are being met, and will appraise ruling parties’ economic management. This reflects democratic mechanisms at work, rewarding or punishing incumbents for their performance.

Neither Africa nor the Middle East is an easy place to be a democrat—as is evident in EIU’s index, The Economist adds. Yet across both vast regions people stand up for democracy despite the dangers of doing so. That, surely, is a reason for optimism.

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