Are Democracy's Days Numbered?

G7Protest-Reuters [M] DISTORTED
How far do our representatives represent us really?
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The rise in support for populists is only a symptom of the crisis of confidence in democracy. The true cause lies deeper: in the perceived failure of democratic governments to solve the world’s  problems.

  • Facts


    • Far-right populists and autocrats are enjoying growing support across Europe because trust in the established elites is waning. Europe needs more democracy to counter it.
    • Electing people who promise to take the world back to way it was 50 years ago, before globalization, won’t solve any problems.
    • The solution lies in constructive criticism, in more vibrant debate, as democracy feeds on doubt — but if the doubters are stifled, doubt in the system grows.
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Nothing is easier than blaming the crisis of democracy befalling us on those who profit from this crisis: Trump, Le Pen, Putin, Petry, Hofer or Orbán. But the fact that people like them are able to benefit from the diminishing confidence in democracy is above all a symptom, a sign of ill health. The causes of the current passion for dismantling democracy are more deeply rooted.

The perception that democracy had triumphed over the last, supposedly most modern form of obliterating liberty – namely communism – was an illusion. The lure of the authoritarians is still alive. It has only changed its shape since 1990.

Today, it’s no longer an anti-capitalist ideology that is challenging democracy. Instead the challenge facing democracy is that confidence in it is being undermined by accusations that it’s become an ideology itself, a kind of arrogant religion that doesn’t need to justify itself to anybody. There is a tacit agreement among all those who are currently mobilizing broad sections of the electorate, from Sweden to Hungary, to nurture this suspicion. The one sentence they would all subscribe to is this: We have pushed the whole issue of democracy and liberalization too far.

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