Democracy has become a requisite component of contemporary governance, almost an imperative of international relations. Despite that, in numerous regions of the world, emerging democracies face a number of challenges due to the legacy of authoritarianism, political polarisation, weak institutions, and a lack of trust and communication between citizens and the administration.
The journey to democratic unification and reinforcement is often long and prickly and requires constant contemplation, resilience, and cooperation between the state and society. In this piece, we will discuss the challenges of democratic consolidation in emerging democracies and possible ways to overcome them.
Legacy of Authoritarianism
First, the legacy of authoritarianism has a deep-seated impact on the democratic process in many nations. In some cases, the legacy of authoritarianism can procreate a culture of political violence, intolerance, and human rights infringements.
For instance, in Myanmar, even though the country conducted its first general election in 2015, the military retains consequential political, social, and economic authority.(1) The nation remains intensely divided because of ethnic and religious issues, and the Rohingya crisis has further attenuated the democratic ardour of the population.
Likewise, in Cameroon, democracy faces multiple difficulties due to the long-lasting authoritarianism of President Paul Biya.(2) Cameroon's president has been in administration for over four decades, and his rule has been characterised by corruption, civil disorder, human rights infringements, and persecution of opposition leaders.
Second, political polarisation can be an epoch-making hindrance to democratic consolidation. Political polarisation can lead to a depraved political climate where a nation's civilians become caricatured into political cliques, compromising rational discourse and the quest for common objectives.
A critical example is the USA, where the nation's politics have become deeply partisan and intensely polarised.(3) The country's democratic establishments, such as the judicial system and the media, have become extremely policed and cognizant of party interests, undermining democratic norms and principles.
Third, weak institutions can weaken the democratic process and encourage the emergence of authoritarianism. Judicial independence, the rule of law, and the separation of powers are essential elements of democratic consolidation. The weakening of these institutions can lead to the concentration of power in the executive, leading to weak opposition, repression of civil society, and human rights abuses.
The recent events in Belarus demonstrate how institutions can become the key to democratic consolidation.(4) Despite massive protests against the authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, he managed to hold on to power because of the loyalty of the security forces and his control over other critical institutions. Unfortunately, the rule of law has suffered immensely during his rule, leading to the critical political impasse affecting the country today.
From a Gen-Z perspective, we need to rethink our approach to democracy and become more active participants in the democratic process. Our generation is more diverse, skilled in technology, and more prone to activism and advocacy than previous generations. We have the potential to make a significant impact, and we must use this potential to promote democracy, social justice, and human rights worldwide. We should also lobby for more responsive, inclusive governments and demand transparency and accountability from leaders. Only then can we lay a strong foundation for democratic consolidation in emerging democracies and ensure a more equitable and harmonious world.
In conclusion, democratic consolidation is a long and challenging journey that requires careful attention, appropriate action, and cooperation between different players. The challenges facing emerging democracies are varied but not insurmountable. The legacy of authoritarianism, political polarisation, and weak institutions pose a particular challenge to the democratic process.
However, democratising the non-democratic is possible with measures such as promoting civic engagement, increasing political awareness, and advocating for the rule of law, democracy, and human rights. Young people, who form a significant section of the population, can be engaged in various ways to sustain and improve democratic consolidation in emerging democracies.
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