Lessons from the rise of strongmen in weak states
The greatest risk to pluralism is in young democracies where checks and balances are not yet robust
IS DEMOCRACY in trouble? Nearly 30 years after Francis Fukuyama declared the end of history and the triumph of liberal democracy, this question is no longer outlandish. America, long a beacon of democracy, has a president who tramples on its norms. Xi Jinping is steering authoritarian China towards one-man rule. And across the emerging world, strongmen stride tall. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, having locked up or purged more than 200,000 Turks for political reasons, will probably prevail in elections that start on June 24th and assume sultan-like powers. Nicaragua’s regime is pulling out protesters’ toenails. Vladimir Putin is about to reap a huge propaganda coup from the World Cup.
Indices of the health of democracy show alarming deterioration since the financial crisis of 2007-08. One published by The Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister firm, has 89 countries regressing in 2017, compared with only 27 improving. Some surveys find that less than a third of young Americans think it is “essential” to live in a democracy. Small wonder that this year has seen a boom in books with frightening titles such as “How Democracy Ends” and “The People vs. Democracy”.