Democracy is in decline – or so a growing consensus suggests. Paul Schuler sets out the evidence for claims that people are turning to autocratic alternatives, and asks whether they necessarily show a loss of faith in democracy. He proposes some alternative measures that could establish whether people are genuinely willing to trade freedom for a ‘solution’ to anxieties about immigration, inequality and globalisation.
In America a right-wing populist has sparked debate about the state of American democracy, while European countries have increasing experience of populist radical right parties. The presence and popularity of these parties raises significant questions about their consequences for democracy, democratic legitimacy, and political participation. In a recent study, Tim Immerzeel and Mark Pickup examined the role of these parties for a specific indicator of the quality of democracy: voter turnout. Based on an analysis of 33 European countries in the period 2002-2012, they show that the presence and popularity attracts some people to the polling booth, while demotivating others.
Not all European parties are losing members, but those that are tend to be older and more institutionalised
Party membership is often cited as being uniformly in decline across European democracies. Based on results from a study of 47 parties in six European countries between 1960 and 2010, Ann-Kristin Kölln writes that while this is true for some parties, it is by no means true for all. She notes that almost a quarter of the parties contained in her study did not lose members over the observed period, with newer parties more likely to experience membership growth than older, more consolidated parties.
new piece by DAVID VAN REYBROUCK/Policy Network:
“Representative democracy is in crisis. Low voter turnout, abstention, falling party membership, and the phenomenal rise of populist parties – these are the symptoms of Democratic Fatigue Syndrome. Considering democratic innovation from classical Athens to present day, it becomes apparent that our democratic institutions haven’t been updated since the late 18th century. How to renew the centralised, hierarchical party system to reflect the horizontal power relationships of the hyper-connected, interactive society of the 21st century? A bi-representative system, combining elections with the democratic principle of sortition, or drawing of lots, could steer democracy into smoother waters”
“The 2011 Irish general election is generally regarded as an ‘earthquake election’, with the governing Fianna Fáil party – traditionally the dominant force in Irish politics – suffering heavy losses and a Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition coming to power in its place. With the next general election due to be held within 18 months, Rory Costello assesses how party support has developed during the course of the current parliament. He writes that whileFianna Fáil has recovered some of its support, the real story has been a surge in the popularity of independents and fringe parties.”
interesting discussion of recent Austrian elections – including implications for party politics, and the rise of the far right