Session Summary: Regenerating Democracies Worldwide

Presentation of GLOBSEC Trends 2021 by:

Dominika Hajdu, Research Fellow, Democracy & Resilience Programme, GLOBSEC Policy Institute, Bratislava

Katarína Klingová, Senior Research Fellow, Democracy & Resilience Programme, GLOBSEC Policy Institute, Bratislava

Discussion: 

Ivan Krastev, Chairman, Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia; Member of the Board of Directors, GLOBSEC 

Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President, Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C. (virtually) 

Neelam Deo, Director and Co-Founder, Gateway House, New Delhi (virtually) 

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Fourth President of the Republic of Croatia  

Led by: Robin Shepherd, Vice President, Halifax International Security Forum, Washington, D.C.

 

The recent research by GLOBSEC showed that people in Central and Eastern Europe consider democracy as a good system, on the other hand, during times of crisis they seek strong leaders. The research also showed that they do not think their governments handled the pandemic very well and so the trust in the national government decreased.  People tend to trust apolitical institutions more than political ones. The research raised several important questions including how do we cope with this distrust? How can we make the situation better? Are there any concrete suggestions?  

Mr Krastev explains that people seeking strong leaders does not necessarily mean that they would like to live in an authoritarian regime. Rather than talking about the crisis of democracy, we should talk about changes happening in societies that people cannot make sense of. Here, the role of disinformation could not be underestimated. Mrs Grabar-Kitarović elaborates further that people in CEE do not feel the expected level of convergence with the rest of the EU caused by corruption and nepotism.  

When we talk about democracy, we need to talk about the USA as that is the one country that comes to mind of people and it is under the spotlight as a number of discussions are taking place. These discussions are seen as weakness by the authoritarian regimes, but to face public opinion is the nature of democracy. Mr Wilson says that “It is not easy, it is not clean”, sometimes even messy, but that is the fundamentals of democracy. The strength of the US democracy is that it is self-restoring. Now it only needs to show that it can deliver for its people. Mrs Grabar-Kitarović underlines that Biden needs to engage the Trump voters in the debate in order to restore the US democracy and the belief in it. Mrs Deo however thinks that engaging the people is not sufficient. We need to understand their needs. She believes that sometimes it is frustrating or discouraging that we will have the discussion on racial discrimination in the US or caste system in India in the 21st century. She interprets it as not much has been done to improve democracy if we still have those debates. Actually, in India, even religion started to play a more important role in politics. She concludes that we do not face the same crises nowadays. They happen because of various reasons and so the democracies themselves need to adjust to current changes in their own way, even in democracies there “is not one size fits all.”