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Editorial: Stop sliding

'The Global State of Democracy' report of 2021 has found a deepening erosion in democracy around the world
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The Editorial Board   |   Published 29.11.21, 03:35 AM

Nearly three decades ago, amid the ruins of a collapsed Soviet Union, the American political scientist, Francis Fukuyama, famously declared that Western-style liberal democracy had triumphed for eternity over other systems of governance. It was supposed to be the ‘end of history’. Today, that prophecy appears to have been premature. The 2021 edition of The Global State of Democracy report, released last week, has found a deepening erosion in democracy around the world. India, the United States of America and Brazil, three of the world’s largest democracies, are among those that have seen authoritarian tendencies take hold, often with popular support, the report from the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance concluded. The Covid-19 pandemic has hastened the democratic slide globally, it added. These findings are consistent with those of V-Dem, another Swedish non-profit, that monitors levels of democracy in different nations, and of the Washington-based Freedom House — also from this year.

The reasons are many. Globalization was supposed to flatten the world. Instead, it became more uneven for many countries and communities, bolstering calls for protectionist and nationalist approaches. The 2008 financial crisis and, then, Covid-19 have further widened the gulf between the economic haves and have-nots. In the initial months of the pandemic, democracies struggled to contain the virus compared to more illiberal regimes like China and Singapore. And democracy’s crisis escalated rapidly once its credibility faced the strongest attack from a nation long seen as a beacon of the ideal: America. After the former US president, Donald Trump, questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election that he lost, Myanmar’s generals alleged fraud in a vote that was won that year by the party of the Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. They then orchestrated a coup. In Peru, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the disgraced former president, Alberto Fujimori, claimed irregularities to stop the election of the schoolteacher, Pedro Castillo, this June. And in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro is already insisting that next year’s election will be rigged against him. But there are ways to fight back. From Germany to Canada, groups are organizing large citizens’ assemblies that debate everything from climate change to foreign policy. Their recommendations are not binding but they help put pressure on governments while giving ordinary people a voice beyond their vote. Meanwhile, Italy’s schools are teaching children how to identify fake news. It is time for other democracies to step up. Democracy can still fix itself. This is not the end of history.



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