Lessons for democracy

ON January 6, supporters of former president, Donald Trump, invaded Capitol Hill seeking to stop the certification of the election results which would affirm the victory of Joe Biden over Donald Trump. On February 1, the military in Myanmar overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. These two countries are at opposing ends of the democratic spectrum, the USA being a democracy of more than two and half centuries while Myanmar became a democracy in 2011. That both witnessed massive attacks on democracy is a pointer to the need for any country to courteously guard her democracy as no democracy is too big or sophisticated to collapse.

That it took millennia for us to arrive at democracy as the preferred system is a pointer to the fact that leave any society to default events, it will bring about a political order which will never be a democracy. The fact that crave for strongmen still pervades many democracies today shows a sort of default attraction towards a strong figure, autocrat, king, emperor; lord and baron. It is therefore pertinent for democracy to be guarded against its fragility.

Events in Capitol Hill and Myanmar present two major attacks against democracy in different environments. In America, it was a structure of strong institutions that held firm in the face of the onslaught. An independent judiciary, a military that is well educated of its role and allegiance to the constitution and not to an individual in power, a political system where there is a freedom of thought in political parties giving rise to a strong and independent legislature.

In Myanmar, it was a case of institutional failures from the government committing genocide against Rohingya Muslims, the military suppression of opposition members ordered by the government and the final takeover of the government structure by the military. Going forward, democracy will not survive by just elections alone; democracy is built on strong institutions independent enough to withstand and resist the hijack attempt of autocrats. Democracy also must strive to genuinely be legitimate and fulfill the law of social contract to thrive, because, it is hard to build a democracy, autocracy however, is cheap and could be gotten on the street.

  • Bright Ogundare, Lagos

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