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How the masses have stifled democracy today

OPINION
By Njoroge Waweru | September 12th 2021

As is the requirement in choosing school prefects that will be leading in 2020, pupils at Xaverian Primary school in Kisumu went to the ballot. [Denish Ochieng,Standard]

On Wednesday, the world marks the International Day for Democracy. This is an important event to take stock of the state of democracy like accessing challenges confronting it as well as celebrate milestones over the years.

This year's event is significant owing to the prevailing global pandemic and its grave threat to democracy. Freedom of association, one of the most basic tenets of democracy, is curtailed by Covid-19 safety measures.

The original meaning of democracy means people gathering together to deliberate and to vote. Fair trial is another tenet of democracy and for any trial to be fair, the rules of natural justice demands that it must not only be done but be seen to be done. Justice must be done in an open court.

The pandemic has claimed open court as a casualty and this gives room to miscarriage of justice. Governments are using the pandemic as a pretext to violate human rights and generally suppress democracy.

Of significant note this year is that the world's most powerful country and beacon of democracy, the US, has taken note of the threats democracy is facing. US President Joe Biden has organised the Summit for Democracy in December to address these threats.

The metamorphosis of democracy is coming full cycle since the end of the cold war when there was an aggressive agitation for democracy to the 1990s when the promise of democracy

illuminated the world. That's when scholarship of democracy gained traction and consolidation became the anesthetizing byword in governance during the dawn of 21st century.

Today, we are talking of democracy's tailwinds shifting to headwinds, not just in Kenya but all over the world. Democracy is increasingly loosing it's stalwarts.

In Kenya, for instance, the opposition has been assimilated with the government and one can hardly tell of a function of the opposition, even the most ceremonial. The civil society is in comatose and the middle classes, which Aristotle described as the natural allies of democracy, are today the most estranged.

But the gravest point of democracy's decline is the apathy, indifference and functional illiteracy of the people or the masses. It is a classic turn of voters against democracy. Yet the earliest slogans of democracy were government of the people, by the people for the people.

Autocrats all over the world are exploiting this tide to cannibalise and decimate democracy. Watch countries like Poland and Hungary where judges are appointed by the ruling parties and freedom of the press has been extinguished.

In Kenya, the case of people turning against democracy, their would-be saviour is only so poignant, in cognizance of the 2010 liberal Constitution, which reinforces and ring-fences democracy from all fronts. We are supposed to capitalise on the gains in the Constitution to enjoy fruits of democracy but the people have abdicated vigilance, the vanguard of democracy.

Political analyst

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