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Is Democracy Dying?

5th May 2024 | 14 Views

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Fascism, communism, and military authority were all forms of blatant tyranny. They have all disappeared from much of the world. In a classic coup d’état, as in Pinochet’s Chile, the presidential palace burns and the president is killed, imprisoned, or shipped off into exile. The constitution is suspended or scrapped.

On the electoral road, none of these things happen. Military takeovers and other violent appropriations of # power is uncommon these days. Most nations regularly have elections. Democracies are still falling, but not in the same ways. There are no tanks in the streets. The path to electoral breakdown is dangerously deceptive. Democratic backsliding today begins at the ballot box. There is not a single moment — no coup, no declaration of martial law, no suspension of the constitution. There is not a single moment in which the regime obviously “crosses the line” into dictatorship; nothing may set off society’s alarm bells.

Electoral Path to Authoritarianism

Since the conclusion of the Cold War, elected governments themselves, rather than the generals and troops, have been responsible for most democratic breakdowns. The elected leaders have subverted democratic institutions in the US, UK, India, Brazil, Venezuela, Georgia, Hungary, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, etc.

Constitutions and other institutions that claim to be democratic are still in force. Voting is still open. Elected autocrats destroy democracy’s core while maintaining its outward appearance. Government efforts to subvert # democracy are “legal,” in the sense that they are approved by the legislature or accepted by the courts. They may even be portrayed as efforts to improve democracy. Newspapers continue to publish despite being intimidated or sold into self-censorship. Citizens frequently run into legal or tax issues, if they criticize the government.

The situation is not immediately apparent to people. Many people still think they are citizens of a democracy. Established parties introduce extremists into the mainstream out of fear or mistake. The autocratic leaders pack and “weaponize” the courts and other impartial agencies, buy off the media and the private sector, or intimidate them into silence. They rewrite the rules of politics to tip the scales in favour of their opponents. They use institutions as political weapons against those who do not have control over them.

The tragic paradox of the electoral path to authoritarianism is that democracy’s assassins use its own institutions to kill it — gradually, subtly, and even legally.

Autocracy Inc.

Autocratic regimes, particularly the powerful nations like China and Russia, have built a network of sorts called “Autocracy Inc.” that enables and supports further anti-democratic regression. Through this support group, these nations’ leaders cement their power and wealth — at the expense of their own citizens — even as much of the world criticizes what they’re doing.

Turkey was a genuine contender to join the European Union, but in recent years, the nation has taken steps towards authoritarianism. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan referred to China’s persecution of the Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group, as “genocide” in 2009.  However, when Erdogan assumed power, he adopted an autocratic style of his own and a more moderate stance. He has even deported Uyghurs living in Turkey to China because of the increased Chinese support. In addition to arresting and imprisoning his own dissidents, Erdogan has developed a blatant hatred for former NATO and European partners. The desire of Erdogan to parrot Chinese propaganda has intensified along with his interest in Chinese friendship, investment, and technology. Similarly, autocratic regimes from Belarus to Syria to Venezuela have been able to count on Russian and/or Chinese support.

The lessons of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the Arab Spring, have shown that military intervention could not do much to turn the tide, at least without risking catastrophe (up to nuclear war).  The European Commissioner for International Partnership said: “Universal values — the cornerstones of civilization that defend the most vulnerable — are in danger as authoritarianism grows around the world.” Measures that are disproportionate, illegal, indefinite, have been implemented by some nations, most notably Hungary, India, the Philippines, and the USA. 

Democracy Degradation in USA

The US is a high-performing democracy that has made improvements in 2020 in terms of indicators of impartial administration, corruption, and predictable enforcement. But the erosion of civil liberties, the lack of effective checks on the executive branch, the efforts to suppress participation in elections, and the runaway polarization point to serious issues with the foundations of democracy.

The degradation of democracy in the US under President Donald Trump attracted a lot of attention, but data suggests that the incident started in 2009. Presidents Bush and Obama increased the use of extrajudicial, surveillance, and interrogation techniques in order to further national security objectives. The election of President Donald Trump dispelled the idea that democracy in the US and Western Europe was too well entrenched to fail. It sent a clear message that democracy is not the only game in town. 

But Trump is not the only one in the democratic world to undermine democracy. Many believe that when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was at the helm, Britain has entered democracy’s twilight zone. The British political system “has the outward appearance of democracy, but it is largely controlled by undemocratic forces.”

A historic turning point came when former President Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results. A cult of personality, intimidation, and demagoguery characterized Trump’s reign. Despite having a limited comprehension of what it means to be loyal to one’s nation and its constitution, he wraps himself in the flag. The violent contest of the election without any evidence of fraud has been replicated in different ways in places as diverse as Myanmar, Peru, and Israel. While Myanmar transitioned to an authoritarian regime, Afghanistan and Mali transitioned from hybrid governments to this category.

In 2021, the world has –

98 democracies, the lowest number in many years.                                                                                                                                               

20 hybrid governments, including Russia, Morocco, and Turkey, and                                                                                                               

47 # authoritarian regimes, including China, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Iran.

Why did democracy fail?

There are many reasons for the failure of democracies. Democracy is prone to failure and self-destruction due to several inherent conditions and traits.

Democracies start to deteriorate when institutional, socioeconomic, and # political issues go unsolved. A majority of democracies continue to be non-egalitarian. Ideologies don’t exist. The only idea left is gaining power by whatever means necessary. When political parties and authorities try to use anti-democratic substitutes to make up for democracy’s fundamental flaws, democracies fail.

The hollowing out of democracy has been caused by a grotesque celebration of greed, the massive growth of inequality, a culture of cruelty, and a disdain for public virtues, all wrapped up in an authoritarian populism.

Indian political thinker Ambedkar saw the perils of hero worship had warned, “In politics, hero worship is a sure road to degradation and eventual dictatorship. If things go wrong under the new constitution, the reason will not be that we had a bad constitution. We would like to say that man was vile.”

In the 21st century, democracy is not wiped out any more by tanks overrunning parliament; it dies from within because good people are silent and weak people surrender. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, democracy is “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It’s very foundation, therefore, rests on its people, their beliefs, and their desire to be ruled by a leader who is capable of ensuring their safety and overall well-being.

“There lies on us a very important duty to see that democracy does not vanish from the earth as the governing principle of human relationships. If we believe in it, we must be both true and loyal to it. We must not only be staunch in our faith in democracy, but we must resolve to see that whatever we do does not help the enemies of democracy uproot the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity.”

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This article is an excerpt from the book –


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Amazon, Google Books, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Tolino, Vivlio, Smashwords, Everand, Odilo, Gardeners, Hoopla, Ebay, Walmart, Thalia, Baker & Taylor, Borrow Box, Bibliotheca, Das Kulturkaufhaus, Feltrinelli IBS: Libri, Kinokuniya, Kyobo, Harvard Book Store, Rediscovered Books, The Ripped Bodice, The Reading Bug, Weltbild, Decitre, Morawa, Aaron’s Books, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Bookswagon,,,

About Author –

The writer J. Dhopte got a degree in mechanical engineering, diploma in marine engineering and master’s in financial management. He worked in Merchant Navy for 10 years, travelling across the globe on ships. He had a border-less career in maritime, plastic, service, hospitality and education industries, working in various locations around the world. Currently, he is working as a professor. He is the author of the books – Erosion of Democracy, Corporatocracy and recently released, Who is killing Democracy?

Jitendra Dhopte



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