Technological Advances Have Not Advanced Global Democratic Movements
Why Has Technology Not Led To More Democratic Governance
Foreign Policy magazine sought out the opinions of six experts on why new technologies have not led to democratic advances around the world.
One reason cited by Senem Aydin Düzgit, an associate professor with the Istanbul Biligi University note that while many are excited about new communications technologies, large numbers of people outside the wealthy, established democracies still do not have access to such resources.
” For example, in Turkey — a relative economic success story among emerging democracies — approximately half of households still lack internet access. They thus continue to rely on traditional media, such as television, for news and political information. Coupled with effective government censorship of such media — vividly evident during the 2013 Gezi protests, when a significant segment of the Turkish population was dependent on government-sponsored news to make sense of the startling developments — the liberating effects of the internet as a source of alternative information are muted,” he writes.
In addition, many technological advances have been used by authoritarian regimes to suppress opposition.
More broadly, Diane de Gramont of Yale University notes that while technology can provide more “avenues for citizen expression,” democracy is also about having institutions that respond to citizen’s needs and “building such institutions has been an uphill battle for many aspiring democracies, and technological fixes can only provide limited assistance.”
Can Democracy Thrive In The Arab World?
John M. Owen IV examines the prospects of Islamic democracy in the Arab world by looking at the history of such movements in the West.
The record to date is not a positive one, he suggests.
Looking at the Middle East and its borderlands, it is difficult to find an exemplar of Islamic democracy. Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh are all majority Muslim democracies, but their interactions with Middle Eastern states are too slight to qualify them as exemplars. Iran boasts of its Islamic republic but clearly is not democratic enough for many of its young citizens. Egyptian democracy looked so promising in 2011 but lies in tatters today.”
Only Tunisia comes close to matching the definition of an Islamic democracy. However, Owen says, it “is too small, and its democracy too precarious, to qualify as an exemplar worthy of imitation by larger states in the region.”
While Turkey once appeared the best model of Islamic democracy, that hope has vanished under the authoritarian rule of President Erdogan. However, the election held over the weekend may portend better days for democracy in Turkey.
The election did not produce an outright victory for Erdogan’s party, the AKP, and the country’s large Kurdish minority won its largest ever share of the vote. The secularist Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) was the second biggest party after the AKP.
Samira Shackle of the Middle East Monitor believes that result is a victory in itself for the democratic movement in Turkey.
“The next few weeks will be dominated by coalition negotiations and political wrangling. While Erdogan’s supporters have warned of a return to unstable government, economic uncertainty and fragile coalitions, many in Turkey will be seeing this result as a victory for parliamentary democracy,” she contends.