In the article “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy” Fareed Zakaria gives insight on how illiberal democracy has come to be and why recognizing it was not as easy. He combines historical evidence and addresses ideas of other scholars to present his arguments. This is done in a well-structured manner which he develops using ideas like that of absolute sovereignty and the American path. The article takes a firm stand for consolidating democracy and developing constitutional liberalism.
The article is divided into five sub-parts. Zakaria shows us that illiberal democracy is rising on a global scale because of democratically elected governments disregarding their constitutional limits. Therefore, depriving the basic rights and freedoms of individuals.
Secondly, he talks about “The road to liberal democracy” in which we see that dictatorships have been given way to democracy resulting in the setback of a nation followed by abuses of human rights. The article mentions that, “10 of the 22 Latin American countries have levels of human rights abuse that are incompatible with the consolidation of liberal democracy.” In contrast, this section also talks about how European countries have achieved liberal democracy successfully.
Moving on, the author reveals the encouragement given by scholars and the government towards a strong, centralized state. However, the leaders of those states have debated for absolute authority, blurring the lines between a powerful and a legitimate government. Boris Yeltsin for example, formed a Russian super-presidency by suspending the court, removing governors and much more, allowing him and his successors to abuse the limits of constitutional liberalism. From this section one understands that the actuality is, these “strong and centralized states” are the problem, like Nazi Germany.
Thirdly, Zakaria emphasizes how Americans see their own structure of democracy as unsafe and still help with elections on the international stage. He provides a case study where an American scholar went to aid in the drafting of Kazakhstans electoral laws. In this case study, the scholar replied negatively when praised by his Kazakhstani counterpart. To continue, this section also provides the French model which similarly proves to be futile. This segment ends with a decision for the revival of constitutionalism to counteract overemphasis solely on democracy.
Last but not least, the conclusion is brought that there are no proper alternatives to address this issue of democracy as its discontents have become part of modernity. This is due to the fact that, illiberal democracy is seen as legitimate as it is somewhat reasonable. However, a solution is given, urging that democracy is strengthened in its roots and to steadily bring about constitutional liberalism.
Fareed Zakaria is an Indian-American author and journalist with many notable credits like that of being a contributing editor in the Time magazine, an editor in Newsweek International, former managing editor in Foreign Affairs and also hosting his own weekly public affairs show on CNN. His knowledge and involvement in worldly issues allows him to address in a very direct manner, the problem we are facing with democracy.
The article was tremendously convincing as it opens our eyes towards real world politics and gives insight as to why and how everything came to be. We still see dictatorships like that in North Korea, Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan. We see governments abusing power and human rights. All this comes from illiberal democracy. In his second section “The road to liberal democracy,” the author gives an excellent example of Michael Chege who shows us how in Africa, multiparty elections were overstressed neglecting basic principles of liberal governance. On the other hand, he shows us where many central European countries with a proper transition form communism to liberal democracy have progressed. Countries outside of Europe are also talked about, where the once, British colonized states still were shown towards constitutional liberalism although it was undemocratic.
The strongest part of the article is arguably the last two sections. This is because it shows how we seem to keep making problems within problems. For example, the American scholar and how he was sent to help with electoral laws but didn’t want the laws to be like that of America. So why does America interfere when they themselves do not believe that their own system is just? This is also just the one example the author addressed, there may be countless other examples, resulting towards an illiberal democratic system as it is overlooked by another undemocratic system. Attention must be brought towards the fact that the president of the United States is Donald Trump who is a bigot and racist at the very least. Therefore, the dilemma that Zakaria mentions in the first section still exists today. This section also asks for constitutionalism with various empowered groups and tells the reader that this is needed so that the government can be kept in check.
The last section, “democracy’s discontent” is also very effective as it gives the reader an overall view on how democracy that is illiberal will be legitimate because it is seen as a new sense of fashion and is thought of as being reasonable. However, this should not be the case and the author brings this issue out ensuring that the reader does not miss what needs to be understood. What makes this a very strong part of the article is that, the author does not just reveal that illiberal democracy is the norm now and problems will arise, but also gives the reader a proper solution to deal with the issue at hand. Thus, the reader is not left to ponder without any foundation on what the solution may be, but is given direction.
However, not all articles are perfect. One issue this article has is the fact that, in the section titled “The American path,” it also talks about the French revolution and the French model which seems to be out of place. Perhaps, the writer could possibly have added another section highlighting the French path. Although, the reader can make the connection as it is related to the democratic paths that are taken, a separation would have been better.
Finally, the article was very appealing overall as it kept providing essential details and ideas of scholars. One-part readers may find the most appealing is when the article provides a play of Robert Bolt as a counterpoint to intellectuals thinking that constitutional liberalism is “quaint… that should take a backseat.” The play demonstrates that constitutional liberalism is the way forward.
In conclusion, this article should be recommended and is worth reading and analyzing. It sparks interest in areas of political science and international relations that one may not be aware of. The article is concise and straightforward making it easy to understand. It provides definitions when needed so the reader knows what aspect is being addressed removing any form of confusion. This article is recommended towards university students and higher. Simply because, it contains some advanced language that may not appeal towards high school students. The reader however, does not really require a lot of background knowledge on the subject matter and may read it with ease. Overall, a very good read awakening deep thoughts about ones government.