For the past half century, democracy has been the political ideology. The cold war saw a concerted effort to promote democracy, led by the USA. Since then, more and more countries have moved towards some form of democracy as the specter of communism was beat back. The idea of everyone’s opinion being considered in an equal and fair manner, without prejudice, captured the imagination of millions around the world. The recent spate of political upheaval in Arab stats, dubbed the Arab Spring, was heralded as the dawning of true democracy in the Middle East. But reality presents a far more murky picture, one where democracy’s success and future are both called into question. Here’s an examination of where democracy stands across the world.
Previously: The West (USA)
THE WEST (EUROPE)
In Europe, arguably the source of democracy (Athens), democracy isn’t faring much better. The UK has a coalition government, which is arguably a good thing, but it points to a failure of the original system dominated by Labour and the Conservatives.
In Greece, a referendum on the bailout plan was called off and an unelected, technocratic government formed to lead Greece towards calmer waters. Now, not one, but two de-facto referendum on the bailout and elections have been held, with the lack of national consensus on many of the core issues facing Greece scaring markets. Elections, the supposed bedrock of modern democracy, only seemed to further complicate political uncertainty and help send the financial markets tumbling.
Italy is now led by ‘Super Mario’ who heads an unelected, technocratic government that for all our love of democracy, lacks any sort of electoral mandate. It should probably be noted that Berlusconi was duly elected.
Even the European Union has been chastised for the failure of its consensus and democratic decision making. Pundits have long called for much stronger action and for ways to bypass democratic deadlock. Germany’s dominance of the debate surrounding the Eurozone’s debt crisis points in much the same direction.
More than anything in recent times, the debt crisis in Europe seems to be pushing Europe away from democracy and consensus decision making as was championed in the past. Rather, Europe increasingly seems to be embracing the idea that a few people and institutions hold a disproportionate share of the power for decision making.
Next time: Asia