The challenges could not be higher in 2018. Democracy is under attack throughout the world. Societies are getting cut up by identity politics. Human rights are now being eroded. Inequality is rising and populism is the order of the day.
The scenario was radically different even a few years back. Democracy flowered in the latter part of the 20th century. According to Freedom House, the American think tank, 63 percent of world countries were democratic in the Millennium year. It appeared that Western Liberalism has triumphed above all else. Then everything changed.
Two events are pivotal in this context- China's rising power and global financial crisis. Personal lives were affected by the collapse of the economy. People lost their houses. The Economist magazine put it succinctly when it reported that the worldwide financial crisis destroyed not only the financial spine but also the psychological one. It laid bare the basic weakness of the political systems of the West.
Most fearsome of all, the major political parties have lost touch with their voting population. This disaffection does not equal voter apathy. Votes now go to minor parties and also independent candidates. The Senate is showing all signs of a churn up. To give an example, the Australian political scene has witnessed voters rejecting the Liberal National or ALP grouping.
Power of the authoritarian
While Democracies thrashed in pain, the People's Republic of China only grew. It seemed to the common observers that the Chinese had a better development model. A few countries like Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkey went the autocratic way. Journalists were beaten up and locked in jails. Jailing reporters and their political rivals are common methods for Russia's Vladimir Putin and Hungary's Victor Oban. Freedom House has given warnings about the accelerating discard of democracy. It said that the authoritarian rule is making a comeback.
It did not help that Trump is the President of the United States. President Trump is clearly anti-global and against de-industrialization. He has campaigned for US borders to be secured and put America first in the world. He rode a populist wave seen around the world which has seen the un-electable get elected. Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, both Harvard University professors, in their book titled “How Democracies Die” wrote that elected leaders can destroy the democratic system which has brought them to power. They are worried that the United States itself is slowly losing the democratic institutions which have made it the promoter of democracy.