Since 2008, when the United Nations (UN) began celebrating the International Day of Democracy every September 15, reflecting on the good health of the democratic systems throughout the world became necessary. And the conclusion that we arrive at 10 years later is troubling, at the very least, especially in Europe, where the far right has steadily advanced after general elections in major countries such as Germany, France, and Italy. In the case of Europe, it would seem there is a direct relationship between the decline of democracy and rejection of large migrations of people, generating a phenomenon known as populism that essentially corresponds to the shift from a welfare society to a society where the population’s discontent begins to prevail.
In this sense, it should be remembered that the democratic world dealt a strong blow to totalitarianism with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and with it the fall of all the dictatorial regimes of Eastern Europe, including the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). However, more than a quarter century later, the Russian Federation of Vladimir Putin constitutes a very low-quality democracy and some Eastern European countries have begun to see a worrying rise in ultranationalism.
In this sense, the fundamental problem deteriorating democracy both in Europe and on other continents is the widespread stain of corruption that extends to all levels of society. In an information society such as ours, this message arrives faster and to a broader swath of society. This has led to the well-known phenomenon of political disaffection, i.e., a strong rejection of a political class considered to be as corrupt as it is expensive and inefficient. Relatedly, the application of new technology has allowed for the emergence of an assembly-style democracy that allows for greater participation from the people, but that still shows clear defects.
In order for a democracy to be truly authentic, public representatives must be subject to stringent controls, as they are the ones managing the State’s resources. To ensure this accountability, a conditio sine qua non is the true division of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Unfortunately, the politicians of more than a few democracies have a taste for interfering in a number of areas outside their scope, generating significant levels of distrust among the people, leading to lower and lower levels not just of party affiliation, but of participation in elections as a whole.
Hence, the importance of key elements such as term limits, ensuring the absolute independence of the judiciary, the proper functioning of regulatory bodies (which represent the interests of the State, in short, all of us), the plurality of the media, strict compliance with the law, and the submission to the rules that all citizens living in democratic countries have set for themselves.
Of course, democracy has never been so widespread throughout the world as it is now. Nonetheless, there continue to be a number of countries in certain regions of the world (Latin America, Africa, and Asia) where democracy is truly a chimera, among other reasons because they still have not experienced the necessary economic, social, and cultural development to allow them to acquire a culture of democracy. Therefore, one of the future challenges will be the generalization of democracy as a system of coexistence, because when faced with the natural lack of societal consensus, the existence of a governing majority is the best method to ensure peaceful and harmonious coexistence. The future of entire generations depends on our ability to preserve the richness of democracy.