“In its heyday, Communism claimed that capitalism had betrayed the worker. So what should we make of Moscow’s new battle cry, that democracy has betrayed the voter?
It’s a worldview that has become increasingly clear through the era of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, via a mosaic of public political statements, off-the-record conversations with academics and intelligence insights. Let’s call it “orderism.”
Orderism has started to challenge democracy in many parts of the world — Turkey, Poland, the Philippines. But Mr. Putin’s Russia believes it holds the copyright on this formula, and sees it as the sharp end of the wedge it is trying to drive among the nations of the West.
The ideology’s basic political premise is that liberal democracy and international law have not lived up to their promise. Instead of creating stability, they have produced inequality and chaos. The secular religion worshiped in the Western parliaments was globalization (or, in theEuropean Union’s case, Europeanization). These beliefs, according to the orderists, overlooked the downsides.”
What populist politicians (Putin, Trump, Le Pen, Wilders, Farage, Erdogan and many others) hate most are institutional checks and balances which can protect individuals (and especially the voiceless) whose rights and freedoms are threatened by the tyranny of the majority: an independent judiciary with effective access to justice, efficient national human rights institutions and ombudspersons, expert auditor-generals, solid anti-corruption mechanisms, principled law enforcement, free media, energetic civil society organisations, strong trade unions…
The political lesson of the Thirties – that, without checks and balances, majorities will be wrong – which had translated into the contemporary, complex and evolving overarching human rights doctrine, seems to have been entirely forgotten by this first generation of politicians who has no memory whatsoever of the WWII years. Majority rule does not mean political legitimacy if human rights are violated. We might have to learn this lesson again, and may be the hard way.
Trying to embrace the present complexity, diversity and mobility of our fast-changing societies through complex institutional mechanisms (such as the European Union) is not a sign of decadence: the simplistic “solutions” of populism and nationalism can only turn wrong in the long term.
Do we really all have to suffer through a renewed bout of extreme right populist governments before we collectively realise that democracies are complex accountability machines which rest on a tripod made of electoral representation, effective human rights guarantees and the Rule of Law?
How can we make clear to all, as Jean Monnet famously said, that “Nothing is possible without men, nothing is lasting without institutions”.