On Sunday, members of the United Nations celebrated International Democracy Day. Established by the UN in 2007, the day marks the ‘opportunity to review the state of democracy around the world’.
Democracy first appeared in the politics and philosophy of the ancient Greeks. There is no one strict definition on what exactly democracy is and what it should involve. However, the general consensus is that any democracy should have at its core: legal equality, political freedom, and the rule of law.
In the Western World, democracy is generally understood as ‘liberal democracy’. Any liberal democracy should be representative and elected representatives should be subject to the rule of law.
The end of the Cold War and the subsequent dissolution of the USSR apparently marked the triumph of Liberal Democracy. The United States had squashed the threat of Communism in the East and thus began the ‘New World Order’.
The US were to be the superpower at the centre of this order — spreading liberal democracy and maintaining peace. In deciding the US to be integral in the spread of liberal democracy, President Bush Senior was pre-emptively excusing higher levels of US state intervention in countries deemed to be ‘undemocratic’.
Fast-forward close to thirty years. International Democracy Day should be a reminder to check the state of Western ‘liberal’ Democracy in 2019.
The UN views International Democracy Day as an:
‘opportunity to urge all governments to respect their citizens’ right to active, substantive and meaningful participation in democracy’.
I wonder, will the British Government feel such an urge?
The debacle that is currently British politics begs the question: Is the West’s liberal democracy, and their role in spreading this to countries deemed as undemocratic, hypocritical?
Since the Brexit referendum of 2016, British politics has crashed and burned. We have had three different prime ministers. The most recent of which, Boris Johnson, has not been elected by the public. The majority vote in the 2016 referendum has not been answered, as we are still in the state of limbo concerning Brexit. Seemingly, Parliament is taking the approach of blocking every effort made by the Prime Minister until the referendum’s result is fully overturned. And now we find ourselves in the situation where our Prime Minister has suspended Parliament so there is literally no representation taking place in British politics.
How, given these three years under the present Government’s belt, can we consider ourself a democracy?
It seems that the right of citizens to participate in British politics comes second to the agendas and will of the cabinet.
Such an example of democracy in the West can hardly fill one with much optimism. For Britain to be involved in crusades for liberal democracy overseas, whilst exercising such little respect for the principles of democracy on its own turf, there must exist a huge amount of hypocritical leeway in the West’s approach to the Eastern world.
So with the passing of International Democracy Day, we should reflect on the state of our own democracy. The United Nations urges its member states to do so, but the importance of this should not be reduced to one day a year. Governments should not only check themselves annually for the sake of a marked day. It is important that in the development of Western politics we continue to ask questions of our government. We should not take democracy for granted by virtue of being a state in the West.
Since the beginning of the ‘New World Order’ it is as if it has been universally acknowledged that the West is, undoubtedly, democratic. This, however, is far too large an assumption to make. Democracy is a fragile structure and, seemingly when we look at the current state of British affairs, it only takes a few individuals to crumble it.