The Speaker
Saturday, 18 May 2024 – 12:12

Will democracy prevail?

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

The process of affecting political change through elections can be a long and arduous struggle, mired by obstacles in the form of autocratic governments, mobile public awareness, and a lack of faith in the power of elections to begin with. Even in countries that are seemingly democratic, such full transparency and democracy are often not as obvious as it may appear on the surface. When it comes to political change, the process of achieving this through elections can be an uphill battle. The difficulty of effecting sustainable change via elections is often compounded by a variety of obstacles such as autocratic governments, inadequate public awareness, and widespread distrust in the efficacy of electoral systems. Even in countries with ostensibly democratic processes, there are numerous factors that may limit real progress. These issues range from who controls access to information available to voters, differences between rural and urban populations or perhaps educational levels amongst other considerations.

It’s not just about getting people registered for voting either; attitudes towards democracy have a large part to play too – especially within more authoritarian societies where these attitudes become entrenched and hard to break away from over time. It’s clear then that bringing about meaningful political change through elections is no easy task – but one which remains fundamental if we want our societies to reach their full potential.

The world is not as democratic as it seems

It’s easy to take democracy for granted in many parts of the world, but it’s important to remember that not all countries are as democratic as they appear. Despite what some people may think, there is no single definition of a ‘democratic’ nation – with each country having its own set of rules and regulations that dictate how it runs itself.

In reality, a huge number of countries around the world are far from being truly democratic – often hiding behind a veil of false promises and rhetoric. These nations will generally have authoritarian leaders who control access to information and resources while limiting freedom of expression amongst other things. This means that while elections may be held regularly, they lack any real meaning or ability to drive meaningful change within these societies due to their limited scope and potential for manipulation by those in power. It’s therefore essential we remain aware about where our democracies really stand on the global stage if we want them to continue progressing into the future.

The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a UK-based research firm, that measures the state of democracy in 167 countries. It was first produced in 2006, with updates being released annually since then. The index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture, and civil liberties. Within each category, a country is rated as either “full democracy,” “flawed democracy,” “hybrid regime,” or “authoritarian regime.”

Overall, the index aims to measure the extent to which each country can be considered a democracy, with higher scores indicating a more democratic system. It is often used as a reference by researchers and policymakers as a way to compare the state of democracy in different countries. However, it is important to note that the index is based on the EIU’s own criteria and methodology, and as such, its results may be subject to debate and interpretation.

In the 2021 Democracy Index, the U.K. ranks 14th out of 167 countries, with a score of 8.31 out of 10. This places it in the category of “full democracy.” The country performs particularly well in the categories of electoral process and pluralism, political participation, and civil liberties, but scores somewhat lower in the categories of functioning of government and democratic political culture. Even though the U.K. is considered such an important example of democracy, it still has its flaws.

Autocratic nations limit democratic values

It is becoming increasingly clear that autocratic nations are doing their utmost to limit democratic values, from controlling access to information and resources to limiting freedom of expression. This means that elections within these countries often lack any real meaning or ability to drive meaningful change – with their results predetermined by those in power.

North Korea is ranked as an “authoritarian regime” on the Democracy Index, with a score of only 1.08 out of a possible 10. The country is ruled by a single party, the Korean Workers’ Party, and has a highly centralized government with little to no political freedom. Zimbabwe is ranked as a “hybrid regime” on the Democracy Index, with a score of only 3.50 out of 10. The country has a history of political repression and human rights abuses, and its elections have often been criticized as being unfair and undemocratic. The coup in 2017, which removed President Mugabe, threw the country into further political turmoil, political repression and limitations. It’s a sad state of affairs, but one which shines a light on the importance of protecting democracy around the world – otherwise its progress will be hampered by oppressive governments who attempt to impose their own agendas on citizens.

What this also highlights is how far we have come as a society in terms of our understanding and appreciation for true democracy; it’s no longer an abstract concept but rather something we must fight tooth-and-nail for if we want our societies to reach their full potential. We must continue challenging authoritarian regimes who wish to undermine this fundamental right, while at the same time celebrating those who seek out opportunities in favour of greater freedoms and representative government systems. Autocratic states may try and limit democratic values, but ultimately, they won’t succeed unless people stop standing up for what they believe in.

How democratic are elections?

Elections are often seen as the ultimate test of democracy, and for good reason. They provide an opportunity for citizens to voice their opinions and elect representatives who will make decisions on their behalf. But while they may be a cornerstone of democracies around the world, it is important to remember that not all elections are equal in terms of how democratic they truly are.

For example, some countries have electoral systems which favour certain political parties or candidates over others, making them less than completely democratic. Similarly, low voter turnout can also be an indication that public opinion isn’t being accurately represented at the ballot box – thus limiting democracy even further. Furthermore, autocratic governments may manipulate results or restrict access to information meaning voters don’t get the chance to properly assess potential leaders before voting – hampering any real progress towards true democracy yet further still.

That said, however, we must acknowledge that many nations around the world have made great strides in recent years when it comes to holding fair and open elections – with increased transparency leading us ever closer towards true representative government systems where every voice counts equally regardless of background or circumstance. It’s clear then that while there may still be challenges ahead when it comes to achieving pure democratic elections across all societies worldwide; we must remain optimistic if we want our democracies achieve their full potential in future generations.

Elections do not always result in a transfer of power

It is becoming increasingly clear that elections do not always result in a transfer of power. This can be seen in many countries around the world, where the same parties remain in power for extended periods despite being voted out at election time. This suggests that while democracy may well exist on paper in some nations, it doesn’t necessarily lead to meaningful change or progress when it comes to representing citizens’ interests – something which could have serious consequences for society if allowed to continue unchecked. In 2016, Joseph Kabila, President of the DRC announced he would not step down, despite serving his second, and final, term under the Constitution. Additionally, on the whole the great offices of state across the world only exchange hands 30% of the time during elections. Quite often, those in power remain in power.

The world is complex, and citizens of many nations live in varying levels of democracy. Autocratic states often prevent the ability for public and personal freedom, as well as have complete control over their media in order to manipulate and censor public education, which then limits opportunities for voting to occur. This makes it exceedingly difficult for true political change to occur — something that a ballot box alone cannot guarantee. Ultimately, the power of democracy lies not only within the election process but also within first educating citizens about civic duties and challenging autocratic systems that oppress people’s voices. In order for true democracy to take root, citizens need to take charge of their own political destinies by getting involved in their local communities and pushing for change. We must also recognize and celebrate those who are leading the charge for democracy by taking a stand and speaking out for what is right.

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