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How is democracy threatened and how can it be protected?

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By Yiannis Armeutis*

Πоς απειλεΙται και πως μπορεΙ να προστατευτεΙ η ΔημοκρατΙα;

The smooth rotation of Presidents and governments in Cyprus often creates the false impression that democracy is an indisputable reality around the world. But is this really happening? The recent event of the “Andreas Armeutis Democracy Study Foundation” and the Pancypriot Organization of Relatives of Fallen Resistance Fighters, held before the elections, helped dozens of participants to put the issue on a more correct footing. The topic of the event may have differed significantly from current political developments, but the interest was intense.

It could not happen otherwise, since the issue of Democracy and its application at the international level is always topical. A few weeks ago, moreover, we saw the second act of the play that began with the invasion of Trump supporters in the Capitol in 2021, with Bolsonaro supporters in Brazil storming government buildings, not accepting the result of the election. These phenomena, although not unprecedented, reflect perceptions that do not respect democratic institutions and the smooth rotation of persons and parties in power.

These two moments constitute some of the darkest points in our modern history, confirming that the achievements of modern democracies should not be taken for granted. The last few decades of political stability in western Europe may be giving rise to feelings of security for the functioning of institutions in our great political family, but threats remain and will inevitably grow as they grow in fertile soil.

The discussion focused on exactly this topic, with the result being extremely interesting. Is populist political discourse to blame, the phenomena of corruption like those we have seen recently in Europe with Qatar Gate, or is it a broader crisis of representation?

Corruption and the creation of the feeling that sections of societies are not politically represented, and/or excluded from aspects of economic and social life, are the reasons for the development of perceptions that oppose Democracy. Populism, for example, which targets the emotional rather than the rational audience, takes care to rhetorically cater to multiple audiences with often conflicting positions. However, the dominance of the populist discourse, despite the temporary benefits for it, or those who utter it, in the long term affects the entire political world, making it unreliable. In a similar way, the credibility of persons and parties is affected by the phenomena of corruption, which come to light. Sometimes, in fact, the impact of revelations is so great, that it does not allow societies to realize that Democracy and its institutions lead to the revelation of scandals and not to their creation.

The recent example of the European Parliament is also indicative of how the operation of independent institutions, in this case the Justice, which exists only in democratic regimes, defends the public interest against those elected who aim for personal enrichment. Equally important is the contribution of the free press, which again is inherent to Democracy and which can reveal scandals of political figures, as we unfortunately found out first hand as Cypriots.

The most productive part of the debate, it concerned the ways of shielding the Democracy and its institutions, but also the important differentiation between a genuinely popular discourse and populism. The inclusion of the demands of the weakest social strata and their evolution into a political program has nothing to do with populism. On the contrary, it is a necessary means for representing the whole of society at a political level. What was common was the need for the dominance of constructive speech by the political staff and the electorate. If we can therefore distinguish a weapon for the defense of democracy, it is Education and, by extension, rationality at all levels.

*Architect, member of the “For Limassol” Initiative, president of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy “Andreas Armeutis”.

Source: www.kathimerini.com.cy

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