Direct democracy failed to satisfy the pundits in Britain where voices in favor of exit from the European Union prevailed over those that were against it in a referendum. Indirect democracy, too, did not make many happy in the United States, where the controversial Donald Trump won the presidential election in November despite winning less popular votes. The logic of the electoral college system was questioned.

Democracy's credibility under question

Whatever the reasons for the phenomena that have been witnessed in countries like Britain and the US this year, there is no doubt that the credibility of the democratic system is under threat.

And just like the credibility of democracy is under question, the credibility of non-democratic leaderships are being eulogized. In a world which has seen multiple waves of democracies over the ages and democracy has been accepted as a universal political currency, this is a reality which concerns us all.

In the US, a lot of Republican Party members have started seeing Russian President Vladimir Putin favorably despite the fact that the two countries have completely opposite political cultures. These Republicans have felt that the president of their own country – Barack Obama – hasn’t pursued the nation’s interest the way Putin did for Russia.

In India which is the world’s largest democracy, thanks to its massive population, such admiration for undemocratic functioning is also seen.

“We need a military rule” or “Indira Gandhi’s Emergency made the country run on time” are things commonly heard in India which has been one of those rare developing democracies in which the military has never interfered in the political process.

A contradiction of democracy at play

So, there seems to be a contradiction at work.

Democracies earned their names for their emphasis on individual freedom, thought and action, those who constitute them do not look very impressed with the overall functioning of the system. Or why else would certain people in the US admire Putin or those in India prefer a military rule?

The answer lies in the fact that democracies have witnessed a qualitative decline today.

Brexit, the election of Trump and the risky experiment of demonetization—the reputed democracies of Britain, the US and India have been eclipsed by populist leaderships that don’t value merit or understanding of critical issues. They emphasize ‘easy solutions’ to make their constituencies happy, because the constituencies themselves lack the merit to comprehend the seriousness of things—political or economic.

Democracies can't provide easy and instant solution

But this qualitative decline of democracies where just the right to vote has become the ultimate duty of citizenship has hurt their credibility because democracy is a system in which the masses’ ability to judge is considered the main driving force.

But in reality, the masses (and also the classes) have shown little interest and ability to understand and judge issues in-depth. Seeking easy and instant solutions to pressing problems has become the order of the day, and any doubt while reaching a solution to a problem is considered inefficient and undeserving.

This ‘loss of patience’ with governance and seeking the fastest solution to every problem has made the democracies cynical about themselves. And simultaneously, one-man leaderships or rule by men in uniform are being seen as more efficient. These patterns of solution-finding are worse, for they are entirely conditioned by personal whims or systems that care little about people’s well-being.

Is democracy eating up its own roots?

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