An uncertain future for democracy?


By more than one measure, democracy around the world is declining, the BBC reports:

Trust in political institutions – including the electoral process itself – are at an all-time low. New converts to democracy in Europe and the Middle East are sliding back into authoritarian rule. And populist leaders who are expected to curb certain civil liberties are winning votes. Societies the world over are experiencing a strong backlash to a system of government that has largely been the hallmark of developed nations for generations.

“A lot of focus gets put on places like Russia, the Middle East or China,” says Joan Hoey at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in London. “But the problem is here, in the heart of the most mature democracies in the West.”

Western states are worrying about the health of democracy for the first time since perhaps the end of World War Two, says Larry Diamond, a political sociologist at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “We’ve not seen anything like this in decades, and we don’t know where it’s heading,” he says. “We don’t know how serious it is.”

Despite being on the back foot, many people believe democracy is the best system of government humans have come up with, an end point to political evolution, the BBC adds. In non-democratic countries around the world – in parts of Asia, in sub-Saharan Africa – survey data shows that people want it.


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