Democracy: Let’s Not Take It for Granted

By Shlomo Maital

  My wife and I just returned from voting, in Israel’s 5th national election since April 9, 2019. 

     Many Israelis complain.  True, when the electorate is split 60 right/60 left, the resulting deadlock makes democracy look kind of bad.  Chances are, we may have to return to the ballot box again soon.

   But – I found the experience uplifting.  Lines of people waiting to vote, many with small children, to show them in person how democracy works.

    Yes, Israel is a flawed democracy **. (see below).  But, who isn’t?  Only one nation in 16, according to The Economist, is a full democracy  *.  And only four in 10 are ‘flawed’.  Hence, more than five nations in 10 are not democratic at all. And by population, perhaps over two-thirds of the world. (See: “Democracy Index”, The Economist Intelligence Unit).

     So if you live in a democracy, and vote freely — count your blessings.   And guard it with all your might.  Because there are many, especially those who see their (white?) majority shrinking, who would retain power by preventing those who oppose them from voting.  As we speak, Brazilian truckers are blocking roads because their candidate lost.

       On Nov. 8, there will be those in the US exercising their “First amendment rights” (‘free’ speech) who will threaten opponents outside polling booths, in the Southern US.  The US is today solidly in the ‘flawed’ category.  I know whom to blame.

      Everywhere, democracy is threatened.  Losers hate it.  Winners degrade it to maintain their control.  Only if people of good will strongly fight for the simple right to vote freely, will democracy survive.    

   *   Full democracies are nations where civil liberties and fundam\\ental political freedoms are not only respected but also reinforced by a political culture conducive to the thriving of democratic principles. These nations have a valid system of governmental checks and balances, an independent judiciary whose decisions are enforced, governments that function adequately, and diverse and independent media. These nations have only limited problems in democratic functioning. (6.4% of nations)

   **  Flawed democracies are nations where elections are fair and free and basic civil liberties are honored but may have issues (e.g. media freedom infringement and minor suppression of political opposition and critics). These nations have significant faults in other democratic aspects, including underdeveloped political culture, low levels of participation in politics, and issues in the functioning of governance. (39.3% of nations)