By Ismail Misbahu
Its origin is traced from a particular set of philosophical doctrines and constitutional developments in the United States and Britain, beginning roughly in the 17th century, the liberal democracy. The adjective ‘liberal’ emphasizes human equality from the basic level of existence. The English philosopher, John Locke (1632-1704) defines it as:
“a state of nature that predates all governments where creatures of the same species and rank, are seen as equal without subordination or subjection.”
The phrase ‘liberal democracy’ therefore points to something beyond government; something closely related to a kind of humanistic culture ― a civil life ― in the simple sense of its lifestyle, economy and administration which every democratic government must subject to its pursuit. Liberal democracy is characterized by cooperative and consensual relationships among individuals and groups on a broad range of matters that extend beyond politics and government.
But does this liberal democracy really manifest? Like it does! The end of the Cold War accelerated a dramatic wave of democratization that began as early as the 1970s. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 cleared the way for the formation or restoration of liberal democratic institutions not only in Eastern Europe but also in the Americas, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
However, throughout the 1990s and 2000s, many countries that became democratized after the end of the Cold War were regressed in the face of rampant corruption, anti-liberal populist movements and breakdowns in the rule of law and constitutionalism. Most troublingly, even long-standing democracies have been shaken by populist political forces that reject basic principles like the separation of powers and targeted minorities for discrimination treatment and repression.
Virtually in every democracy in the world today there has been gross violation of democratic principles and consistent abuse of domestic institutions. According to the Freedom House order of ranking, 2021 recorded the 16th consecutive year of decline in global freedom since 2005. Ethnic, religious and other minority groups, observed Sarah Repucci, Vice President, and also a Director of the Freedom House’s Research and Analysis Department, have borne the brunt of government abuses in both democracies and authoritarian states. The unchecked brutality of autocratic regimes and the ethical decay of democratic powers are combined together to make the world increasingly hostile for fresh demands for better governance.
As Covit-19 permeated throughout the year, rapidly erected democratic institutions have come under sustained attack in nations that remain economically fragile or are still ravaged by deep-seated class or ethnic conflicts. At the same time many freely elected leaders are dramatically narrowing their concerns to a blinkered interpretation of the national interest. Incumbent leaders increasingly used force to crush opponents and settle scores. Anti-democratic actors (including militant groups) within democratic states have continued to cheer the breakdown of democracy and exacerbate it, pitting themselves against the will of the majority, causing confusion and chaos as being manifested in Nigeria.
Many countries in the world today are sloping down from ‘Freedom Democracies’ to ‘Partly Freedom’ or ‘Not Freedom’ at all. As the ranking goes by the Freedom House, the United States of America being the first and the global defender of world democracy, and India―being the second largest democracy after the U.S. both have slipped down from ‘Freedom Free’ to ‘Partly Free’ in this year, 2021. The change with the U.S. was stained by Trump stamping out the last vestiges of democratic and domestic dissent attributed to the U.S. Congress for centuries. The January 6 Capitol insurrection and the abrasive and erratic manner of Trump foreign policy have clearly outlined the print-spot of democratic assault all over the world.
In the same wise also India, being the second largest democracy in the world has increasingly become hostile to democratic principles. Breakdown of democratic institutions and frequent abuse and disregard of the right and critics of minorities have remained unchallenged. The spread of Covit-19 in the country was not without its systematic and unjustifiable abuse of Muslim minorities. The ruling Hindu nationalist movement encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims as “Corona infected” who spread the virus across other groups. They were subjected to intimidation and constant harassment by the Vigilante mobs. Critics on Covet-19 lockdown that resulted in the dangerous and unplanned displacement of millions of internal migrant workers have faced the wrath of the government of Narendra Modi, and were eventually cracked down.
China being the world’s most populous dictatorship also recorded belligerent assault to democratic principles and institutions. The emergence of digital authoritarianism has enabled Beijing to ramp up its global disinformation and censorship, and covered up the initial Covit-19 outbreak which severely hampered a rapid global response in the pandemic early days. In addition to this were the transactional extensions of right abuses and the demolition of Hongkong liberties and legal autonomy which also point to the global democratic decay. Above all is the persecution and constant assault of the Uighur Muslims within and outside the country. China’s recorded mass internment of Uighur and other Muslims ― numbering about 2 million people being held arbitrarily in “reduction camps” is one illustration of murderous democracy in the world. Interpol’s Notification System has been used as a tool for forced repatriation and grabbing of Uighur Muslims from countries where they sought safety as well as the unjustifiable surveillance of Chinese students at foreign Universities.
Other countries like Israel also part in the same rule. After 10 years of return to power, the anti-democratic, indeed anti-nationalistic and chauvinistic tendencies of Bibi Netanyahu have gained prominence as his hold on premiership came under threat. He has increasingly tightened his loyalty to the far-right Western conspirators, entrenching and expanding the frontiers of war and domination in the West Bank at the cruel expense of Palestinian peace process. His totalitarian response to ban foreign activities that may scale back his chaotic policies and actions while enacting discriminatory laws that reserved and favoured the Jewish right of self-determination have not only remained grossly undemocratic but also outrageously anti-humanistic. He’s to the U.S., and of course, to the rest of the West, a ‘God-sent’ Prime Minister who can’t stand the charges of corruption labelled against him in 2019―the year in which he governed Israel as caretaker.
Elsewhere in the world, i.e. in Myanmar, Syria and Russia’s occupation of Crimea―which included targeted Crimean Tatars as well as those who insist t maintain the Ukrainian identity, ethnic and minority cleansing have reduced the score of democratic freedom as well as shadow the hopes for sustaining democratic institutions in countries like Austria, where too, Muslim minorities are increasingly been persecuted.
Other countries in the world have resorted to target exiles and Diasporas, harassing and intimidating political and independent dissidents abroad with anti-democratic practices such as extradition request, kidnapping and even assassination. Heavyweights like Russia, China, Iran and Turkey and Saudi Arabia have demonstrated various instances of this abuse. Turkey’s witch-hunting of Islamic cleric, Imam Fethullah Gulen in Philadelphia, and from whose name the Gulenist movement―the new rebranded Hizmet Movement―which secured a fairly good investment in Nigeria’s education (i.e. the Turkish International Colleges in Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Ibadan, etc) and health sectors etc is designed, has continued without regret despite the fact that the movement has not given itself any name of radical Islamist movement, yet it is labelled as terrorist movement by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s Prime Minister.
The same tactics applied by Bin Salman to fetch up and murder the Turkey-based Saudi Arabian journalist, and a Columnist with Washington Post; also editor with Ál-Wattan’ as well as the manager and Chief Editor of Al-Arab News, Jamal Khashoggi, as well as other 104 Saudi citizens who were indiscriminately indicted for showing concern and sympathising with the victims. Over the last 13 years, freedom of expression and investigative journalism has been declining all over the world. Flagrant violation of the press and crack down of critical discussion among citizens are increasingly becoming guilt-free. Erdogan’s clamp down on, and jailing of journalists for an alleged “insult” of the President’s power hubris has led to mass explosion of criminal cases ― with 20,000 of such cases subjected to investigation and 6,000 under prosecution in 2017 alone! Persecution and jailing of journalists like Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, both in Myanmar continued unabated.
In other ‘dependent democracies’ like Venezuela, extra-judicial killings and punishment by the U.S. forces continued unchallenged, as well as the territorial dispute attributed to Azerbaijan and Armenia in which Turkey and Moscow were the key players.
On the whole, the truth is that democracy in the world needs defending, and as traditional champions like the U.S., China, and Russia stumble, core democratic norms meant to ensure peace, prosperity and freedom for all are under serious threat around the world.
Coming to Africa, democratic assault has generally been attributed to various destabilization attempts by the West, largely targeted to uproot the long-standing ‘dictatorial democracies’ where, though dictatorship prevails and is shaped by constant electoral fraud, coercion, gerrymandering etc, these manipulations are in some cases employed to prevent aggressive external threats as exemplified by the Gaddafi’s Libya, Yahaya Jammeh’s Gambia and Lauren Gbabu’s Ivory Coast. Divisive plots and aggression were covertly entrenched by the West to aggravate democratic freedom and of course subvert efforts at sustaining democratic institutions, as well as shatter the constitutional sovereignty of most African nations.
Ismail Misbahu wrote via:Iismailmusbahu15@gmail.com