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2019: A big year ahead for democracy

Forget about the backsliding autocrats in Beijing, Ankara and Brasilia. In 2019 billions of citizens in some of the world’s most populous democracies will make important decisions at the ballot box. And the prospects are also good for participatory and direct democracy at the local and transnational level.

Dec. 28.– Sometimes it feels like modern democracy has fallen on hard times. Especially at the national level, a host of “bad guys” have in recent years won elections as part of a global backlash against elitist, representative governments. Some commentators have misinterpreted these developments as proof of the weakness of democracy as such, while others have instead addressed the obvious defects. They’ve outlined proposed reforms to make our democracies more direct, digital, local and transnational.

In a series of countries this year – including Peru, Ethiopia, Armenia and Malaysia – people power delivered important and encouraging reforms through referendums and elections. This could be a harbinger of 2019 – a year of opportunity for democracy worldwide.

Elections are scheduled in Indonesia in April, just 10 months after the local elections, seen as another milestone in the democratic transformation of the country.

Interestingly even the European Union, often accused of a lack of interest in genuine people power, has shown some unusual forward-looking insight. Just before the end of the year the law-making bodies of the EU agreed to upgrade the “European Citizens Initiative” (ECI) with a whole package of reforms by January 1, 2020. The “new” ECI will strengthen the agenda-setting powers of EU citizens by providing stronger support infrastructure, more flexibility and greater rewards. With this decision – which still must be approved by the European parliament and council this spring – Brussels is sending a powerful message in two directions: EU citizens, which are about to elect a new Parliament external linkand the United Kingdom, where a second popular vote on Brexit is becoming increasingly likely.

Ballots around the Baltic Sea


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