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Luke MacGregor/Reuters

As the dust settles after the UK general election, let’s remember that voting at the ballot box is not an innate right enjoyed by everyone. Indeed, although the number of democracies across the world has spiked from 48 in 1989 up to 95 today, billions of people are still living in non-democratic, authoritarian regimes.

Although OECD countries today are all free democracies, this was not the case back in 1961 when the organisation was created: Spain and Portugal were under the hold of military dictators, while Turkey and Greece both had such regimes during their membership. So change is possible. Rebuilding trust is also a major challenge, and during the crisis this was sorely tested. New forms of democracy are emerging, with citizens engaging more with their government, both directly and through the use of social media, as this OECD paper shows. But is democracy winning? There is work to do. The electoral turnout in the recent UK elections was 66%, slightly up on 2010, but well short of the 80% registered during the second round of the French 2012 presidential election, for instance. In some countries, such as Australia and Belgium, not voting carries a stiff fine.

With the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War this year, perhaps it is an appropriate time to recall Winston Churchill’s famous observation: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”  

Visit The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance  and Freedom House

Winston Churchill’s quote can be found here

More

Read the paper: Arthur Mickoleit, Social Media Use by Governments

OECD Insights: Measuring government impact in a social media world

Carne Ross, Politics and the trust conundrum

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Dignity and People

Patrick Love, Democracy: What future?

Joanne Caddy, Why citizens are central to good governance

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