The work by Political Scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt entitled “How Democracies Die” has been quite popular in recent years. In their book, Levitsky and Ziblatt analyze the threats to democracy in the US, based on cases international organizations and identifying the most sensitive points in the collapse of democracies. Interestingly, the authors conclude that, as a rule, democracies are not exhausted by violent acts of seizure of power, but by gradual processes of weakening norms and institutions. Some of the signs that may indicate a cooling down of democracy are: political and social polarization; rise of populist candidates; lack of tolerance and cooperation between the powers (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary); and growing resentment between people and institutions.
Unfortunately, we see that Brazilian democracy finds itself with a series of signals beeping on its control panel. There is a great lack of coordination between the powers, which are barely able to maintain a civilized dialogue. We have seen increasingly extreme positions among political figures in our country, which is also reflected in the great social polarization reflected in society. To make matters worse, we are experiencing an economic crisis, aggravated by the pandemic and the consequent increase in social inequalities.
But let’s go back in time a little further: the term Democracy comes from the Greek and means “government of the people”. Since ancient Greece, it was agreed that this government would be exercised through representatives elected by the people, as opposed to what would be the Aristocracy (government exercised only by the nobles). Centuries later, Montesquieu, in his book “The Spirit of Laws”, improved this system by including the separation of powers (or system of checks and balances), which to a large extent is still the theoretical basis of our democracy. As a complex machine, the democratic system only works if the checks and balances are well balanced. Any excess of any of the powers or invasion of competence can stop the wheels of democracy.
Much has been said about September 7th and possible street demonstrations. I would like to see something different: that this symbolic date of our national independence was also the day to revive Brazilian democracy. I would like to see the leaders of the Executive, Legislative and National Judiciary meeting and resuming the republican dialogue, reestablishing the boundaries of action of each entity in a cordial and respectful manner. I would like to see the Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) as well as the state military police reaffirming their constitutional commitment to maintaining order and peace, in a politically neutral way, not for or against parties, but in favor of law. I would also like to see people meeting to converse in a respectful way, looking for points of agreement, rather than focusing only on differences. Finally, I would like to see new political leaders in the news, balanced and in favor of building bridges, very different from the extremisms we have seen today. We need to revive Greek democracy, Montesquieu’s separation of powers, and regain our independence this September 7th. At least, I hope so.
Eloy Oliveira He is a researcher in Public Management and a member of the Institute’s Council Republica.org
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