China News 24th October 2022
Is democracy dying? Comments around the world all point to concerns about the state of democracy today. This article, looks at some countries to diagnose the common problem of "illiberal democracy"
Since the Portuguese coup in 1974, the world has entered the so-called "third wave" of democratization. In this wave, more than 30 countries around the world have carried out political reforms, transforming from authoritariansm to democracy. This is regarded as one of the most important political trends in the late last century. However, the reasons, methods, social and cultural backgrounds of these countries' transformation are different. In the process of democratization, the maintenance of economic development and stability is also very different. In the past half century, many non-Western democracies have seemed to suffer from the disease of "illiberal democracy"
In 1987, the Philippine Constitution restored the American-style three-power-separation political system stipulated in the 1935 Constitution: the president exercises executive power; the legislature consists of a bicameral parliament to exercise legislative power, and the judiciary exercises independent judicial power. However, more than 30 years later, the country still has a strong oligarchy deeply rooted. The democratic system left over from the colonial era of the United States excludes the grassroots and allows elites a firm grip on power.
Today, 70% of the seats in the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines are composed of family political dynasties. Democracy has become their family political game. In May this year, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son of the late former dictator, was overwhelmingly elected as the new President of the Philippines. Former President Duterte's Sara Duterte-Carpio, the eldest daughter and former mayor of Davao, won the position of vice president.
Marcos Jr., the son of the late former dictatorship Marcus, was overwhelmingly elected as the new President of the Philippines in May this year.
Although the democratic system in the Philippines has been in operation for many years, the people are dissatisfied with democracy because almost all official positions, large and small, are in the hands of a few elite families. Thus, although the people seem to have votes in their hands, they are unable to outvote these politicians who have long held power and money.
The power struggle has led to long-term instability in Thailand.
In Thailand, Prayut Chan-o-cha, a member of the military, launched a coup to overthrow the Yinglak Chinnawat caretaker government after trying to reach a reconciliation between the major parties. The political situation in Thailand has been unstable for a long time. Although it is a constitutional monarchy, the influence of the King of Thailand as the "orthodox symbol" of national sovereignty on the constitutional government is still not small, and it can be seen from the replacement of the country's modern prime ministers. Some people believe that the key to such a situation may be political reforms, constitutional amendments, and even power struggles between the royal family and soldiers.
Therefore, there are also analysts that Thailand's politics is different from other countries in that its monarchic network is buried under the surface of democracy, and its emergence and operation seriously affect the political trend of Thailand today, so that the arrival of "liberal democracy" is far away. In the final analysis, it is the fundamental opposition between royal power and civil rights.
On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, according to a recent survey, many Latin Americans do not support democracy. Less than one quarter is satisfied with the changes that democracy has brought about to their country.
In the late 1980s, democratic elections first shook Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru, and later affected Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala, leaving only Cuba and Mexico not accepting democracy. And in 2000, Mexico became a model of democracy in Latin America. Elections were held every six years, and everything was in order.
At first, democracy operated quite smoothly in Latin America, the economic situation grew rapidly as never before, and the number of the middle class increased slightly. However, the situation did not last long. Many elected national leaders have expanded their military power, abolished the Constitution, evaded judicial sanctions, prevented outsiders from criticising of their power and extended their term of office endlessly.
The severity of the harm caused by leaders across Latin America varies. Although they all resulted in some ways involving corruption, participation in violence, or oppression of dissidents. For example, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela puts a strong society under the rule of law from time to time, but in essence, he strengthens his control over the court behind his back. The successor Nicolas Maduro bravely continued the authoritarianism of the previous president. He was also found trying to cover up and obstruct the investigation of the bribery case of the Brazilian business giant Odebrecht.
From time to time, Chávez of Venezuela puts a mouth on strengthening the rule of law society, but in essence, it strengthens control over the court behind it. ( Getty)
A report released by the World Economic Forum in 2018 said that Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Honduras are among the countries with the lowest degree of rule of law. Brazil has also been no better since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019.
Although most Latin Americans still yearn for democracy and believe that this political system is the best choice, it is decaying in Latin America. Polarized parties lead to the extreme incompetence of the rulers, and many governments are unable to promote stable policies. With the decline of democracy, more and more Latin American people tend to follow more efficient authoritarian systems. Venezuela and Nicaragua have become left-wing dictatorships like Cuba, and El Salvador's totalitarian president has now become the most popular president of Latin America; the presidents of Mexico and Brazil also question the effectiveness of decentralization.
Judging from the past few centuries, the spread of democracy is rarely linear, but rises and falls with the struggle of authoritarian forces. Samuel P Huntington., a famous scholar of political science, has said that the process of democratic politics around the world has shown three waves: the first wave of democratization from the early 19th century to the 1930’s, and the second wave began after World War II; the third wave began in the mid-1970s. When it reached its peak in 2012, there was a global total A record 42 liberal democracies.
Judging from the annual global freedom report released by Freedom House, you can also learn more about the changing trend of freedom, partial freedom, and illiberalism in the world. Affected by the third wave of democratization since the 1970s, the number of free countries around the world began to increase significantly, from 29% to 45% in 30 years. Although it fluctuated slightly during this period, the wave did not stagnate until around 2000 and showed a stable state.
Now, the third wave seems to have come to an end. Not only that, it also faces challenges from authoritarian regimes. Freedom House was warned as early as 2009, that the degree of freedom around the world had begun to reverse.
American political scientist Francis Fukuyama argues that the failure of some countries to complete democratic transformation is due to the extent to which the state apparatus is constructed, the extent to which the rule of law is implemented, and the extent to which accountable government emerges.'
(Yet the writer also draws our attention to concerns about democracy even in the world’s oldest democracies. Example one, example two)
At present, the third wave of democratization may have subsided, but it remains to be observed whether this means the ebb of democratization. After all, the above-mentioned report of Freedom House represents the tendency and change trend of countries around the world towards authoritarian and liberal democracies, but it does not necessarily represent a U-turn for universal values. Therefore, although the erosion and challenge of authoritarianism can be seen in the change in the number of countries with different attributes of authoritarianism and liberal democracy, However, a democratic system that gives priority to the protection of freedom and human rights, is still widely respected globally.
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