“Democracy is the worst form of governance, except for all the others that have been tried.” Winston Churchill
Imagine a society anchored on the will of the people but political maneuvering continually drowns out their voices and inhibits the ability of elected leaders to govern. This is the unfortunate reality of many democratic societies in the developed and developing world.
Consider the American system, for example, where the notorious filibuster, a tool that was designed to promote bipartisanship curtails the president’s efforts to govern by shifting power to a minority determined to advance their political agenda at the expense of the public good. Another example of politics casting a dark shadow over democratic societies is the refusal to accept election results, trapping a nation in a state of political turmoil. The denial of election results poses a serious threat to democracies worldwide unlike the filibuster that is specific to the United States of America.
In recent years the stability of countries worldwide including Brazil, the United States of America and Kenya have been threatened by the rejection of election results. The trend has sparked insurrections in Brazil and America. In Kenya it threatens to return the country to the disastrous aftermath of the 2007 elections where many Kenyans were killed and families displaced.
The reckless politicking of leaders poses an existential threat to democracy and calls for urgent action. If we continue to dismiss this threat, we risk the collapse of democratic societies to be replaced by exclusive and unjust systems.
Civic education remains an effective tool in combating irresponsible politicking. Citizens must be equipped with the knowledge and tools to identify and combat this menace. We must shift our politics from populist and ethnic-based politics to policy-based politics that prioritizes the public good. Only then can we create a society where all citizens have a stake in the government of the day and are protected from threats to its functionality.
However, we must not diminish the role of the opposition to preserve democracy. A vibrant and responsible opposition remains crucial to safeguarding democracy. It is the opposition’s responsibility to check government power and protect citizens from oppressive regimes. They can only perform this function if they are enabled. Nevertheless, the opposition like the government must be held accountable to ensure it performs its functions properly and does not undermine democracy and usher in an oppressive regime. A properly functioning democracy therefore is one where the government and opposition perform their functions responsibly and effectively.
The introductory quote in this article highlights the critical need to protect democracy, despite its shortcomings. It is our collective responsibility to protect and refine democratic systems so future generations may enjoy the same rights we do in a more just world.