For all practical purposes the Egyptian presidential elections slated for the end of March looks like they will be mere referendum on one candidate, current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, following, in effect, the removal of the two more competent candidates to compete former Chief of Staff Sami Anan and the leftist Khalid Ali from the race.
On Tuesday the Constitutional Court of Zambia will resume hearing on whether President Edgar Lungu may serve a third term of office. And the court chief Hilda Chibomba has warned that there will be no more adjournments in the long delayed case, on which so much of the country’s political future depends.
Amending the constitution to allow the incumbent president to remain in power or harass his opponents has taken place for example in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, who unlike most African states has been saved so far the bitter experience of civil wars and military coups that has plagued most the continent. But it has been reeling under the pressures of the one party system.
In fact the retreat in democracy and human rights seems to be universal, and not restricted only to Africa. The recently released 2018 Freedom House annual report stated clearly that, “democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades.” The basic elements of freedom of speech, fair elections, rights of minorities and the rule of law are under attack all over the world.
Even the United States is retreating from its traditional role as champion and exemplar of democracy amid accelerating declining in American rights and civil liberties, it said.
The report noted that 72 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains. “This marks the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom,” the report said.
More than two decades ago and with the end of the Cold War, it seemed that liberal democracy has won the ideological battle of the 20th century, but today and for twelve consecutive years liberal democracy seems to be in retreat. Even well established-democracies with functioning institutions and long history like those in Europe and the United States are facing challenges from the growing populism and its encroachment on civil liberties.
The report pointed out that the most worrisome is the future, where young people have little memory and no experience of the struggle against fascism and communism and it looks easy for them to lose faith and interest in democracy.
The other side of the coin shows that Africa is the world’s youngest continent, with 60 percent of the Africa’s population under 25 is ruled by ageing leaders. In Uganda for instance 75 percent of the population were born after Yoweri Museveni came to power back in the 1980s and it is difficult to imagine how such leadership can connect with this younger generation.
Even in well-established democracies of the West, democratic image has been tarnished by the inability of its institutions to come up with innovative solutions to current problems emanating from the communication revolution with its multi-faceted challenges. After all existing institutions are products of a different era: the industrial revolution and that is why the political systems even in the west seem to be getting into being dysfunctional.
Back in the 1960s Samuel Huntington wrote his classic book about political disorder. Though he addressed basically the problems facing developing or third world countries attributing it to lack of developed political institutions able to face up to socio-economic problems and provide solutions, but on the other hand there is also decay in the already established institutions in the West, which we are experiencing now because such institutions seem to be out of touch with changes taking place.
The concept of the party or trade union, which is a product of the industrial revolution and the national state is diminishing in the age of globalization. Today’s national state can’t claim that it has complete monopoly on airwaves and skies for instance. Censorship is becoming something of the past and with it the ability of the government to impose its will on people.
But the time old institutions are decaying, new ones are not replacing them at least not fast enough. And that is the main divide that led to many changes engulfing the world including retreat of democracy.
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