Mainstream European politics is in crisis. The most recent shock came during Austria’s presidential elections, during which establishment political parties found themselves shut out of the race by an independent supported by the Green Party, and a far-right candidate.
Across Europe, a wave of populist, anti-elite parties are rising in the polls, resulting in tied elections, minority governments, and unstable coalitions of the centre-left and centre-right. People are angry, and they (understandably) take that frustration out at the ballot box. Strong leaders, unafraid to say what they think, are in vogue. Compromise is viewed with suspicion, and the broader political process is often seen as slow and unresponsive.
One of our commenters, Stelios, suggests that we are witnessing a crisis of democracy. Is he right? Has democracy failed to deliver what people want? Or is the truth quite the opposite? Is the rise of populist parties a sign that democracy is working as intended?
To get a response, we spoke to Professor Katerina Kolozova, Director of the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities-Skopje, and a professor of philosophy, sociological theory and gender studies at the University American College-Skopje. Did she think democracy was delivering what people wanted?
No, democracy lately has not been delivering what people want. It has become a shallow form, and hardly worthy of the name ‘democracy’. Democracy – even representative democracy – should be as direct as possible, but that is not what we have… Instead, we have been witnessing a certain trend of some countries in Europe moving towards ‘illiberal democracy’. People dispute what that term means in theory, but in practice we do know what it means. This trend will spread and leave European democracy an empty shell, void of meaning, a mere show of parliamentary democracy.
This is a trend already spreading in Eastern Europe, in former communist countries, including my own county, which witnessed an authoritarian regime for almost ten years…But the trend is spreading even to Western Europe.
We also had a comment sent in from S.D., wondering what the rise of Donald Trump in the United States means for representative democracy. Would Professor Kolozova consider “Trumpism” part of the same trend she mentioned?
I’m sure it’s part of the same trend… We’ve got Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey, and I think Trump is going to be the American version. We’re going to witness this problem globally, and I think we’re in times when we should be seriously worried… This is not just a problem for countries in Eastern Europe. It is a global trend, and it has caught up to America as well.
Is democracy delivering what people want? Or has it failed to deliver economic prosperity and hope for the future? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!