Winston Churchill once stated that “Democracy is the worst form of government, with the exception of all the others” Democracy has been the basis of successful governments and of failures and it has also led to dictatorships and to riches for its citizens. It is also the system that the oppressed dream.
China and Germany
Each year China produces a report on alleged human rights violations and other misdeeds of the American system of government. As described in the Guardian this year’s report targeted the presidential campaign won by #Donald Trump and described a dire state of the Union as seen by a country that has never experienced any form of democracy.
While it would be easy to dismiss the report as propaganda in reply to issues of Chinese human rights abuses, it does let us look at a most important concept which needs constant monitoring as its failure can unleash disasters.
Adolph Hitler’s Nazi party came to power through a legitimate process of Democracy. The eventual dictator harnessed the protests of the people for electoral gain and used this discontent to justify emergency measures that allowed him to demolish the new democracy one step at a time. This process then lead to the Second World War.
The German example shows how delicate Democracy can be and how it can be undermined, but the many other successful examples of Democracy also prove that Germany should serve as a warning rather than their inevitable fate.
There are many forms of Democracy according to the history of each country. Some have the American model where the #Head Of State is also the #Head Of Government and others have separate Heads of State and Government. In some the Head of State is a hereditary monarch and the Head of Government is chosen by Parliament, usually the leader of the majority party.
Despite the variations on the themes these systems all have points in common. They have universal suffrage for citizens of legal age, they have a Judiciary that is independent of the executive and they have a free press. These elements are essential for ensuring that the government does not overstep its limits.
Period of unrest
Yet in many formally stable countries Democracy is facing a period of unrest where populist parties are trying to take advantage of a difficult period of international politics.
The waves of refugees from the crises in the Middle East and Africa are creating fear and uncertainty in a number of countries, beginning in Europe. This uncertainty was also a major element in #Donald Trump’s election in November and the basis for the controversial executive orders for a Moslem ban and the wall with Mexico.
While the worries of parts of the population to the new arrivals can be understandable, they should not become the means by which any country’s democracy can be weakened.
Properly functioning Democracies all contain the antibodies which, when working correctly, allow the various systems of government to respond properly to any crisis, or unexpected situation. Yet the greatest guarantee of any Democracy is within the citizens themselves. Citizens must feel themselves part of the process.
This task is difficult in countries with big populations such as the United States and many members countries of the European Union and these differences can be increased by large geographical differences as we saw during the presidential election.
This is the challenge for Democracies, to ensure that no group within the country feels neglected, or that other groups have privileges which they are denied. These differences within countries are the ingredients from which the greatest challenges to democracies come and not from the outside.
Democracy is not a magic formula; it is the science of people. Successful governments are the result and not the cause of Democracy and the final judges of government are the citizens.
Sadly in many democracies we are now seeing politicians who have forgotten this. Will these recalcitrant politicians remember in time?