In the late 1980s, the world saw how one by one, dictatorship and communism fell down and democracy was ushered in to many countries. The Philippines, the Eastern Bloc, even South Korea.
But this decade, democracy has been falling apart. Even in the United States, where it was once seen as the “bastion of democracy” in the West, has its democratic institutions failing, with the Economist Intelligence Unit ranking it as a “flawed democracy”. Turkey, once a model of Muslim democracy, has fallen itself to authoritarianism under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with harsh curtailment on freedom of expression and detaining unwanted journalists under charges of inciting terrorism or even harboring child porn. Thailand was under military junta rule since 2014, deposing an elected civilian government, and is beginning to have a tight grip on dissents especially journalists and bloggers, with most dissidents charged with lese majeste or insulting the royalty, which is currently one of the harshest of its kind in the world. Both countries are set to hold or already held a referendum on overhauling their constitutions, which would give their leaders sweeping powers and further curtailment of freedom and human rights.
Even in this country, the Philippines, many people are already yearning for dictatorship rule, shrugging off the traumatic experience of the 70s to 80s under harsh dictator rule, and many of them are more excited than anxious of such scenario. They claimed that life has become worse and more miserable compared to those under President Ferdinand E. Marcos, with oligarchs and powerful figures – often called the “Yellows” or “Dilawan” – running the country out of control. The rampant corruption and crime problem has put many people to say “enough”. President Rodrigo Duterte won the last election, propelled by his image of being an iron fisted mayor of Davao City.
Oftentimes, Duterte keeps of mentioning his intent to declare Martial Law especially if the drug and crime problem remains unresolved in the country. But the people doesn’t care either. What’s important for many people is to have criminals killed, even by “extra-judicial” means, just to stamp out crime and corruption. And some of his most die hard supporters want such a thing, and oftentimes their so-called acts of support makes many sane people wary. Such as, attempting to shut down websites and accounts of anyone critical to him, or publishing list of their cyber-critics, or even attempting to spill out their private life through unauthorized access to computer and digital data.
Another argument they are bringing up is the example of Singapore. Truly, Singapore is ruled by a strict government, which made the island-city-state one of the finest cities in the world. But would such a brand of iron-fist government work in the Philippines? Where politicians see themselves as gods that demand respect and will punish anyone who go against their way, even by just sneezing in front of them.
Russia has already returned to the era of silencing dissent critical of the government, which was rampant when the Communists still ran the country. It had happened since the early 2000s when Vladimir Putin came to power. Private media was shut down, and right now several laws had been made to further curtail free speech such as requiring bloggers with sizable audiences to register to the government.
Poland – the heart of communist resistance during the last years of the Cold War – has once again found its citizens fighting to defend their democracy that was once fought – and won – by the Solidarity movement and with the blessing of the late Pope John Paul II. There had been attempts by the ruling Law and Justice party to restrict freedom of expression, firstly by signing a law to place more control on the national broadcaster, then by planning to restrict journalists’ access to the Parliament. Massive protests broke out as a response of these measure.
These are only some of the countries whose democracy are starting to fall apart, or had already fallen. There are already other countries where democracy is under threat, like the rise of the populist and often fascist personalities and parties.
I am wondering, is this the end of world democracy? Many people argue that democracy is a failure. But there is no perfect government system either. Hopefully, we would be able to wake up the next day, without any fears that someone is watching over us or be arrested or killed just because of watching foreign drama.