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Saving Liberal Democracy

According to Larry Diamond, a political scientist at Stanford University, there has been a global democratic recession since 2006. His observations about a decade ago have proven to be prescient.

2020 was a dismal year for democracy around the world, according to the latest report by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index (EIU). This annual survey evaluates the quality of democracy across 167 countries based on five measures — electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, democratic political culture and civil liberties. The report finds that democracy has been in decay around the world in the past year.

Freedom House, a non-profit non-governmental organization that conducts research on democracy, political freedom and human rights came to similar conclusions in its most recent Freedom in the World report. The results showed that democracy and pluralism are under assault in 2020.

One of the threats to liberal democracy is Russia’s new cold war on open societies. Vladimir Putin’s repressive government has continued to stifle dissent and disrespect international rules and norms. Putin has jailed anti-corruption leader Alexei Navalny – who has been subjected to severe physical and mental torment and the risk of imminent death.

Putin’s friends abroad seem to be taking notes from his playbook and are undermining liberal democracy. Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, recently forced a passenger flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk, his country's capital, in order to arrest a journalist on board.

Prime Minister Vicktor Orbán has aided Hungary’s descent from model democracy to quasi-autocracy by abandoning the values of freedom and democractic solidarity.

China may pose the most serious threat to liberal democracy of all. China’s authoritarian regime has become increasingly repressive over the years — despite the country's robust economic growth.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to control the state apparatus — and they are promoting repressive programs aimed at changing demographics and ensuring “social stability” in ethnic minority areas, particularly Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.

Democracies must not lose faith. Democracies are equipped with a better set of ideas. Liberal democracies yield innovation and entrepreneurial risk taking that is simply less likely to occur in China.

China desperately wants to be an innovation leader — but innovation usually happens organically in free societies. China’s stealing of technology from foreign firms illustrates that China’s robust economic growth may stagnate at any moment.

Although democracy around the world is in trouble, it is still aligned with the values and aspirations of many of us. That's why citizens from Belarus, Russia and Hong Kong are demanding political freedoms.

Political freedom has historically created the most prosperous societies on earth. We must promote democratic values whenever possible.


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