Once there were countries which, despite occasional hiccups, gave the world examples of stable political systems. The United States, Great Britain, and Australia showed what d#Democracy could be. Unfortunately, in recent times the political parties in these countries have shown the political instability that can threaten Democracy and while not yet at risk of drastic changes they should serve as warning signs of how delicate democracy can be.

Divided democracy

During the recently completed American presidential season the Republican Party was so divided by small specific interest groups that #Donald Trump Donald Trump sat down with CBS' "60 Minutes", an atypical personality that once would never have been considered as a candidate, went on to occupy the White House despite dismay from senior party leaders.

The #Brexit known for being pro-Brexit vote in June that will take Great Britain out of the European Union was the result of bickering within the ruling Conservative Party that David Cameron hoped to quell with what should have been an innocuous vote. Infighting within Australia’s two major parties has led to five changes of Prime Ministers in seven years and rumours of another change in the near future.

These developments would have been expected from countries with weak political structures and yet they have occurred in countries that had repeatedly set high standards for stable governments. They were not the result of popular unrest within the population, but have been used by smaller parties and very vocal minority groups that have more interest in dividing populations than maintaining the union of forces that makes up the best forms of Democracy.

We have seen such forces at work not only in these countries, but also in the recent Austrian Presidential campaign which ran the real risk of a xenophobic President and also in the rise of far-right groups in many European countries and around the world in reply to the weaknesses of the traditional parties and the popular protests that then followed.

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Political parties have always existed and the presence of factions within them are signs of the disagreements that are a natural part of politics, yet these differences have now become paramount within many mainstream parties. The Republican Party displayed these differences over recent times beginning with the Tea Party and is now continuing to do so in a much more destructive manner with the debate over the so call alt-right that many believe is now controlling the party.

Parties for the people or special interests?

Once a party begins to look solely at small special interest groups and not at a wider view of the country and its needs then this risks weakening not only the party over time, but also to destabilizing the basis of that country’s Democracy.

These worries have long been part of political debate, but they have become much more urgent because the disappointment of many citizens in countries around the world is fuelling protest movements and providing recruits for other more extreme groups that often begin by disguising themselves as popular revolts against the establishment that all too often hide political agendas that have little or nothing in common with the ideals that created the modern Democracies.

When parties are considered mouthpieces for elites or for major corporations and not as a voice for the general population then Democracy is weakened with all the consequences that may follow. It is easy to find one such example in Weimar Germany which led to the rise of Hitler’s dictatorship and the rule of a small violent elite over the population and the loss of Democracy.

While we are not yet at the warning stage in the countries mentioned, we should not underestimate the corrosive nature of the protests against the traditional political parties. Are the parties able to face up to this challenge and ensure they remain faithful to their own ideals?