Is Democracy Overrated?


“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner”

The world started to embrace democratic principles soon after the rise of anti-imperialistic wave in the late 18th century. The French revolution dethroned the monarchical rule that the French were experiencing for the previous few decades and similarly, the American revolution transferred the ‘new world’ of Columbus from the hands of English colonialists to that of democratic leaders. Several other nations that were either formed or freed from the invaders also decided to choose democratic principles; though some failed in achieving it and faded away in the due course and some others succeeded and cherished on those values.

From its time of inception and acceptance by the West, democracy became the mantra of every other country across the world. At least the West perceived democracy as the one-size-fit-for-all solution that the third world faced at that point of time. The Marshall plan itself was a reaction towards the expansion of the communism in the Eastern Europe. Americans and their historic fear towards the communist ideology influenced and dictated the American foreign policy for a long period of time that it even forced the Americans to deploy their secret services to assassin the rulers who moved against the American interests.

Did democratic practises that the West taught to the rest of the world work in every case? Did they bring stability and peace, more than its counterparts like one party rule, dictatorship, monarchical rule, did?

For some countries, indeed, democracy worked well. However, there are also numerous cases that showed how pathetic democracy could be in bringing peace, equity, liberty and efficiency and stability. For instance, it was the electoral process that brought Hitler into power in Germany. Later, he manipulated the German constitution for his own gains by suspending the civil liberties that the people of that land enjoyed for long. Similarly, we do have the history of several benevolent dictators who even outperformed their democratic counterparts — France Albert-Rene of Seychelles, Mustafa Kamal Ataturk of modern day Turkish state etc. are all the golden examples from the pages of history.
The core argument here is not to propagate the ideas of monarchy or dictatorship but to look why we Indians has a love for a military dictatorship. In one of the recent surveys by the Pew Research, it was found that more than half of the population supports autocracy and around 53% supports a military junta. Had democracy been so nice and perfect, the citizens of world’s largest democracy wouldn’t have favored a military rule. Yet, people love strong leaders and quick decision-making process.

One possibility is that the democratic process is not truly democratic. For instance, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP bagged 31% votes and could manage a tally of 282 seats. Congress took the share of 19% votes, which is more than half of the total BJP vote share. Now by the mere logic of averages, one may expect Congress to win more than half the number of seats than that of BJP, which would be 141+. However, Congress was only able to manage 44 seats. The situation of parties like BSP was so unfortunate than they couldn’t even win a seat though their vote share was 4.2%. Similarly, Trinamool Congress managed 34 seats with a much lower 3.9% vote share. Here, one must ask how representative a democracy truly is.
Another problem of democratic machinery is that it is slow in decision making process at times when the demand for decisions are very spontaneous. When asked about why ISRO lags behind its Chinese counterpart, one of the former ISRO Chiefs famously said that it’s because we live in a democracy. Though it is appreciable that decisions are made after consensus, we seldom discuss whose consensus and the quality of said consultation; is it the ruling elite or is it every individual in the community who is consulted?
We could also see instances were hardcore parties contest in democratic process who later goes on crushing the dissenting voices. The crackdown of the Turkish Military Coup of 2016 by their elected leader Tayyip Erdogan is another example how he democracy itself can lead way to a dictatorship and an autocratic rule.
Here, no attempt is made to defame democratic processes. In fact, it is probably one of the best forms of government humanity has ever invented. However, thinking that democracy is the one-stop solution for all problems is not appreciable or ideal. For several countries in the Middle East and the African continent, democracy is not going to work due to the political culture and tradition of these regions.

Democracies are often overrated. This is not a good trend as it is not just democracy that can bring social justice and welfare. Welfare also depends heavily upon the political machinery and the political culture that the society has cherished, historically.

-Contributed by Jiss Palelil

Picture Credits: rentpath.com

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