• Reading Level 5
History | PSHE

Democracy is in crisis, says major new report

Is democracy in trouble? Politicians don’t listen and political opinions divide. A new survey shows that people in developed countries are more and more unhappy with their political system. Winston Churchill famously quipped that "democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others". Today, across North America and Western Europe, "the rule of the people" is losing its appeal. Academics at the University of Cambridge have analysed thousands of surveys based on the attitudes of over four million people. They found that, since 1995, the percentage of people "dissatisfied with democracy" has risen from 48% to 58%. "Across the globe, democracy is in a state of malaiseA feeling of sadness or uneasiness. ," said one of the authors of the report, Roberto Foa. Indeed, a number of recent events have suggested that our political system is failing to keep up in an increasingly individualistic and fractured society. Social media should have been a positive thing for political participation. But by allowing everyone to voice an opinion, it often only accentuates the divide between different perspectives. For the 17.4 million people who had supported the UK leaving the European Union, the last few years have seen British democracy in crisis. Whilst a slim majority of people had voted for Brexit, the government could not make it happen. Newspapers described elected members of parliament as "traitors". Both sides saw the other as endangering British democracy. In the US, Trump's impeachmentIn the United States, as in the UK and many other countries, elected representatives have the power to call for officials to be removed from office for committing a public offence. This is called 'impeachment'. trial can be seen as an attempt by his political rivals to defeat him without having to win an election. Then again, he is on trial for abusing the power of the presidency in order to manipulate his own chances of re-election. Across the world, leaders like Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey and Duterte in the Philippines are winning elections only then to crack down on their opponents. It is not democracy as we typically understand it. Other countries like China don't even pretend to be democratic. Nonetheless, they wield huge political power. It can even be argued that if it were not for China's autocraticRelating to a ruler with total power. system, the current deadly virus would have been able to spread far more quickly. So, is democracy in crisis? Let’s have a vote Yes. The modern world has moved too quickly for politics to keep up. Lies can be exposed instantly and claims can be fact-checked. We no longer trust politicians to know what is best for us. The politicians who succeed are doing so by stirring up anger against others, such as migrants. What is more, today, it is the companies that wield more influence and power than citizens. No. Democracy has always been imperfect. To ensure that it survives, we have to lower our expectations and remember what matters. Votes are still being counted. Politicians still sometimes listen. In a fast-changing world, with greater numbers of people to represent, politics is going to get messier - that does not mean it is not ours to change. Believing in that change is believing in democracy. KeywordsMalaise - A feeling of sadness or uneasiness.

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