Rethinking democracy

The Western-style democratic system has undergone very little reform since the days of trias politica, the French and American Revolutions. The purpose of government -according to liberals- is among others to have elections, multi-party systems and separation of political powers. Yet we have seen how these very values have been used to undermine democracy. Many democratic strongholds are seeing how rules are being bent, constitutions rewritten allowing authoritarianism, populism, but also disruption and corruption. Democracy is being challenged on many fronts. Specifically, by inequality (of opportunity), identity politics, disinformation (“fake news” and conspiracy theories) and election interference.

Challenging the idea that Western-style democracy is the best form of governance and well-being of the peoples is an idea whose time has come. Recent protests in France, Chile, Lebanon, Georgia, Bolivia, to mention a few, have in common: low confidence in elections, judicial system, police and national leadership.

I’ve talked before about our flawed Parliamentary Democracy where the real power centers around Members of Parliament MP. I made my case that simply having a majority in Parliament is no guarantee for building a system that empowers everyone. Especially, not given the lack of preparation, knowledge and integrity of our MPs in Curaçao. I’m a staunch proponent of a Constitutional Democracy with a Constitutional Court to limit the power of MPs.

Yet, I don’t believe that’s enough. We may have to go beyond the type of democracy that emphasizes “freedoms of”. Freedom of opinion, diffusion of information, assembly and political participation, to name a few, better known as civil liberties, which Western countries swear by. The question is whether a wide-open Western-style democracy with an unconstrained press is a necessary prerequisite for sustainable delivery of life, liberty and happiness.

There are those who believe that democracy should be measured by the effectiveness of its government in facing issues, making policy choices, executing policy, and preventing corruption. Secondly, it should produce the results people want, including rising incomes, health, safety and ability to eat, grow, learn and realize their potential. These people prefer what we call “freedoms from”. Freedom from hunger, insecurity, poverty, corruption, inept politicians, inequality as the most important democracy metrics

These are questions that deserve a rigorous debate. I worry though that we might not go beyond democracy. Politicians who want to rock that boat are unlikely to be voted into office. Democracy cannot remain to be a nice looking cul-de-sac that leads to nowhere whilst the enemies of democracy are hard at work.

Alex David Rosaria (53) is a freelance consultant active in Asia & Pacific. He is a former Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and UN Implementation Officer in Africa and Central America. He’s from Curaçao and has a MBA from the University of Iowa. (USA).




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