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Democracy in Review: First Half of 2023

January – From the US to Brazil: History repeating itself

As historians often say, “By studying history, we strive to prevent the mistakes of the past.” However, the assault on Brazil’s Congress premises by supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro, on the second anniversary of Donald Trump supporters storming the US Capitol, proves that there are still many lessons to be learned. To prevent history from repeating itself a third time, Brazil’s Federal Electoral Court (TSE) has voted to prohibit Bolsonaro from holding office until 2030, due to his anti-democratic abuse of power and his role in the protests contesting his election defeat.

February – India’s attack on all means of freedom

During the shortest month of the year, the BBC offices in India were raided by tax department officials for alleged violations of foreign exchange rules, weeks after the release of a documentary highlighting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leading role during the Gujarat riots in 2002, where more than 1,000 Muslims were killed. With no hesitation in exposing the country’s lack of freedom of expression and right to information, the Delhi High Court is actively seeking to sue the BBC on grounds of defamation. Coincidentally or not, later in April, all 67 accused in the Gujarat riots Naroda village massacre case were acquitted.

March – Second Summit for Democracy

In contrast to its inaugural edition in 2021, constrained by COVID-19 travel restrictions, the second Summit for Democracy on March 29th and 30th transcended borders, unfolding across the globe. Co-hosted by the USA, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Zambia, many believe the second #S4D lacked a clear purpose as it failed to offer a platform and monitoring mechanisms for reviewing and sharing the progress made on the commitments during the “year of action”. Alongside fostering more citizen engagement and better defining the role of European governments, these improvements were identified during EPD’s 2023 Annual Conference ahead of the upcoming edition in South Korea.

April – Fleeing Sudan: A need, not a choice

On April 15, a violent power struggle erupted in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, between the two main factions of the ruling military regime: the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). To date, over 3,000 people have been killed and 6,000 others have been injured, as reported by the country’s health minister, Haitham Ibrahim. These figures explain the internal displacement of more than 1.9 million people, with an additional 550,000 crossing into neighbouring countries, according to the Displacement Tracking Matrix of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

May – Unfair play in Turkey’s elections

The entire nation of 85 million won,” claimed Recep Tayyip Erdogan while celebrating his re-election in May, despite garnering the support of only half (52%) of the electorate. This election not only provided the opposition, led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, with its greatest opportunity yet to remove Erdogan from power but also offered Europe a significant opportunity to restore a relationship based on mutual trust with Turkey. However, the uneven playing field tilted the scales. The crackdown on dissent, the control and manipulation of social media, along with the biased coverage of Erdogan’s speeches (state TV provided him with 32 hours and 42 minutes of airtime, while Kemal received only 32 minutes during the campaign’s peak), as documented by OSCE elections observation missions, demonstrates that although Erdogan may have won Turkey, Turkey has lost democracy.

JuneWagner’s failed coup attempt fallout

On June 24th, we woke up with a plot twist: Wagner boss Prigozhin ordered his troops to march towards Moscow, seeking revenge against Russia’s military leadership in Ukraine, only to order their retreat less than 24 hours later to avoid “bloodshed”. Wagner’s “heroic” domestic image played to their advantage as Putin had no alternative but to allow Wagner’s mutiny commanders to peacefully depart to Belarus, catalogued by many as a “weak move”, leaving Putin with no choice but to follow-up on two action points: Shutting down Prigozhin’s business empire and communication channels while gaining control of its troll farms and restoring his image and legitimacy by either escalating the war in Ukraine to secure his victory or, if lost, retaliating against the West for its support to Ukraine. In an attempt to shift the plot to Russia’s advantage, Putin extended an invitation to Prigozhin to return to Russia for a meeting on June 29th. During their encounter, the Russian President offered the leader of the Wagner mercenary group with the chance to join the Russian army alongside their fighters to continue their fight in Ukraine. Following Prigozhin’s refusal of the offer, claiming that ”Wagner does not exist,” US President Joe Biden stated, ”If I were he, I’d be careful what I ate.” However, as said by EPD’s President during EPD’s 2023 Annual Conference, had Russia been a democracy, none of this would have happened.