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The Decline of Democracy: A Global Crisis

We will miss this word a lot in the coming times. The Democracy Report of 2024, which has marked this year, clearly shows that democracy is actually declining around the world. According to the data prepared by the V-Dem Institute, we have seen the lowest level of democracy since 1985. Yes, you read that right, we have gone back 39 years. These findings clearly demonstrate that democratic rights and institutions are in decline.

Democracy is not just about going to the polls and voting. The rule of law, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, human rights… These are essential elements of democracy. Unfortunately, these fundamental values are rapidly eroding. Authoritarian regimes are gaining strength around the world, while democratic norms are being shattered.

In 1985, the world was a very different place. The Berlin Wall had not yet fallen, and the Cold War was in full swing. However, even in those years, hopes for democracy were higher. Now, after 39 years, seeing such a decline in democracy is heartbreaking.

So, how can this situation change? First of all, we need to remember how important democratic values and institutions are. We must always defend basic principles such as human rights, freedom of expression, and the rule of law. Democracy is not just a word; it is a way of life, a set of values. And we are on the verge of losing these values. Hopefully, this report will once again remind us of the importance of democracy and prompt us to take action to protect our values. Otherwise, we will miss the word democracy even more in the future.

The 2024 Democracy Report by the V-Dem Institute reveals that the world is being dragged into a dark path. According to the report, a large majority of the world’s population now lives under the shadow of autocracy. This rate is 71%! This striking statistic clearly shows how much autocratic regimes have gained strength in the past 10 years.

So, what does this mean?

In an era where democratic values and freedoms are increasingly being destroyed, this picture is worrying. Especially with the elections to be held in France this weekend, this pessimistic picture may deepen even further. The weakening of elements such as election freedom, freedom of expression, and an independent judiciary, which are the cornerstones of democracy, creates deep impacts not only politically but also socially and economically. In this process, it becomes more difficult to build a fair and participatory future for societies overshadowed by democracy.

Europe has witnessed far-right parties achieving great success in the European Parliament elections. This situation has come at a high cost for the parties of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. This shift in Europe may be a harbinger of radical changes in the continent’s political landscape and poses a risk for the future of democracy.

Far-right parties are back on stage with their anti-immigrant policies and nationalist rhetoric. A significant portion of the public has started to listen to the promises of these parties due to economic difficulties, unemployment, and security concerns.

In France, the National Rally Party (Rassemblement National) led by Marine Le Pen has taken a significant share of the vote from Macron’s party. In Germany, the AfD (Alternative for Germany) party has made a big breakthrough by taking votes from Scholz’s party. These developments are worrying for the political future of both Macron and Scholz.

If this trend continues across Europe, it will cause traditional parties to review their policies. The public now wants to hear a different voice. The rise of the far-right requires other parties to take the public’s concerns more seriously. This change in Europe is an important turning point not only for politicians but for all European people. Future elections will show whether this trend will continue. However, the current picture is clear evidence that Europe’s political landscape is rapidly changing.

In the US, Donald Trump is one of the two candidates in the presidential election to be held in November. If there are no legal obstacles, it is possible for him to return to the presidency. In the UK, Nigel Farage’s Reform Party is expected to defeat the Conservative Party in the elections to be held next month.

In recent years, we have seen the far-right rising again in the West. This coincides with a period when democracy is already under threat worldwide. Democracy is in a global collapse. Almost everywhere, polarization, intolerance, hostility towards minorities, and toxic politics are on the rise.

According to the V-Dem Institute’s report, democracy worldwide has become more pronounced under the “wave of autocratization.” Research clearly shows the decline of democratic rights and institutions. That means 5.7 billion people live under authoritarian regimes.

Democracy is not just about voting in elections; it is also a system where people can speak freely, share their ideas, and respect differences. Recently, these values have been seriously eroded. Democratic decline has started to affect all of our lives.

When this dramatic transformation is combined with the rise of the far-right in the West, there is a dark picture of what awaits us in the future. Democracy, freedom, and justice must remain values to be defended. Now, more effort should be made to protect these values.

The rise of far-right or ultra-nationalist populist leaders is directly related to democratic decline. In countries experiencing this, elected leaders often erode civil liberties, disregard freedom of expression, oppress opponents, and persecute minorities. These leaders display authoritarian behavior by not respecting democratic institutions and norms and use nationalism to gain support. This deeply divides their political systems, turning them into flawed democracies.

Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman clearly explained the distinction between the far-right and the right in his article: “The dividing line is these leaders’ perspectives on democracy. If a political leader refuses to accept election results and wants to dismantle the ‘deep state’ themselves, they clearly belong to the far-right. However, leaders who pursue racist policies within democratic politics and the law cannot be considered far-right.”

Today, the world is living under the oppressive regimes of many leaders and in a period when threats to democracy are increasing. This situation weakens not only the belief of political leaders but also of societies in democracy. However, we must not forget, “Democracy is not just a form of government, but also a way of life.” It is a system based on the will of the people, and built on principles of freedom, equality, and justice. It is the responsibility of every individual to protect and sustain these values.

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YÜKSEL DURGUT is a journalist with a primary focus on global politics and foreign affairs.

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