By Faraz Chandio
The state of democracy today is subject to intense scrutiny and dissatisfaction, as evidenced by widespread disillusionment among voters. While Winston Churchill’s assertion that democracy is “the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried” holds true, the fact remains that democracy falls short of being truly effective. This sentiment is echoed by voters globally who are increasingly frustrated with the status quo.
A recent Pew Global Attitudes Survey across 27 countries reveals that an average of 51% of citizens express discontent with democracy, while 45% are satisfied. This discontent is particularly pronounced in nations like Britain, Japan, the United States, Nigeria, Argentina, South Africa, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and Mexico, where the majority of respondents are dissatisfied. Notably, this sentiment transcends societal divisions, encompassing men and women, young and old, affluent and underprivileged, educated and non-educated individuals alike.
This dissatisfaction should come as no surprise given the stagnation that characterizes democratic processes in the face of monumental changes that have reshaped nearly every other facet of human endeavor in the past 250 years. In a world where technological advances have revolutionized communication, interaction, and access to information, the democratic process remains relatively unchanged. Elections occur every few years, often with limited information about the candidates, while political parties, which are frequently less than fully democratic themselves, mediate the process. Elected representatives convene in elaborate chambers to discuss intricate subjects with superficial understanding, yielding little substantive progress. Social and economic challenges persist without resolution, and the cycle restarts after a few years.
Younger generations, steeped in the immediacy of the digital age, are understandably skeptical of representative democracy’s efficacy. As such, the need for reforms is evident, ranging from mitigating the influence of money in campaigns to exploring more direct democratic engagement at the local level. Technological advancements offer the potential to transition from sporadic, information-poor voting to more frequent and well-informed participation. Creative suggestions, such as making votes tradable or storable, could reinvigorate voter interest and turnout.
Critiques of democracy are not limited to its mechanisms; elected officials also face severe credibility challenges. The same Pew report highlights that an average of 54% of respondents perceive politicians in their countries as corrupt, and only 35% believe that elected officials prioritize the concerns of ordinary citizens. The erosion of trust in political figures is not solely due to their glaring transgressions; it is also a result of the emergence of a political class that is increasingly detached from the electorate. This disconnect is exacerbated by the weakening of institutions that once rooted political parties in society, rendering parties “hydroponic” – floating above, but detached from, the populace.
Traditional parties that once had connections to social, religious, or professional organizations have withered, and their leaders now tend to originate from privileged backgrounds, further contributing to this disconnect. The arrogance of this political class only deepens the divide, as interactions with the average voter become increasingly scarce. Anti-establishment sentiment is on the rise, as evidenced by recent elections that have seen the downfall of conventional politicians and the rise of populists who tap into voter frustration.
Social media’s echo chambers exacerbate the situation by enabling the rapid dissemination of information that tarnishes politicians’ reputations. Dissatisfaction with democracy provides fertile ground for authoritarian populists to flourish, as strongmen are less inclined to advocate for democratic reform. In contrast, liberal democrats should spearhead the charge for reform to reinvigorate democracy’s principles and ensure that representative government remains responsive to the needs of the people.
In conclusion, the global dissatisfaction with democracy stems from its inability to keep pace with the changing world, leading to voter disillusionment and the rise of anti-establishment sentiment. To address these challenges, efforts must be directed towards revitalizing democratic processes, enhancing transparency, and restoring trust in political leadership. It is the responsibility of champions of liberal democracy to lead the charge in advancing these reforms and safeguarding the essence of representative government.
The writer is an author and Journalist Farazchandio1@gmail.com Twitter: farazchandio1