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It is a temptation to oversell democracy as a necessary source of social stability, economic equity, and personal emancipation. Democracy, in truth, is not instrumental to any outcome good or bad. It is a way simply to engage most people and thus confer legitimacy. One can only hope the public prefers light over the dark. A Princeton political scientist of unusual insight, Jan Werner-Muller wrote recently, “Democracy is not just instrumentally valuable — if that were the case, we might give it up for systems that deliver more. It is valuable.”

Democracy can provide in the words of Adam Przeworski, “a regime in which incumbents lose elections and leave office if they do.” That simple rule has taken centuries to evolve into a near-universal belief in even autocratic states The legitimacy of campaigns and elections are constantly at risk from threats ranging from ballot box stuffing to race-based gerrymandering. Throw in nationalism and populism on top of old-style “money and muscle” and it is clear democracy remains ever at risk.


So, yes, Democracy Day is necessary. It serves to restore the promise of digital communications as a freer and less expensive media rather than a means of surveillance repression. The day can generate stronger light and fiercer heat on the malignancy of corruption — the evil in the absence of good. Civil society has a key role in measuring and advancing fundamental rights. So too does political competition, the fear of losing, keep leaders and the elected on a straightening path. Political parties, both in Opposition and government, are judged harshly. They are, instead, the motive force to protect democracy. A chance to evaluate the progress towards resilient democracy is the value of Democracy Day.

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