You ViewsVOLUME 19 ISSUE # 18

Dying democracies

We have seen military dictators ruling in the past not only in Pakistan, but in other countries, too. But there is a new phenomenon of ‘democratic autocrats’ that has emerged globally in the recent past, and Pakistan is no exception on this count. The recent report released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on the World Democracy Index reflects the status of dying democracies across the world. According to the report, around 32 countries saw an improvement in their index score, while another 68 countries registered a decline.

The report also revealed that around 40 per cent people in the world live under authoritarian rule; a percentage that has been rising steadily in recent years, while less than 8pc people live in fully democratic countries. A common conclusion would be that democracies die at the hands of army generals. As was witnessed during the Cold War era, military rulers accounted for nearly three out of four democratic breakdowns.

However, in the 21st century, there is another way to break and weaken democracy that has emerged on the global political horizon. It is less dramatic, but it is just as destructive to democracy as any military rule ever has been. Democracies no more die now at the hands of the generals alone. They die as much at the hands of democratically elected leaders. Simply put, such characters are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Mainstream political parties have a huge role to play to keep a check on such autocrats. They must work together to prevent the demagogues from gaining power. They must keep them away from party tickets prior to general elections, and must make a common cause with political opponents in support of ensuring the survival of the true spirit of democracy.

If this does not happen, this electoral route to authoritarianism can be far more dangerous than anything else because it is almost imperceptible and can degenerate the democratic norms and culture in society into fascism and sheer despotism without the masses realising what is happening before it gets a bit too late.

Faisal Ahmed

Khairpur Mirs