Democracy is never completed and needs constant maintenance, say Carolien van Ham and Marlies Honingh. At the same time, democracy is also under pressure, in the Netherlands and internationally. The two researchers find this worrisome, which was one of the reasons they launched a Sustainable Democracy hotspot earlier this year.
In the early 1990s, people were still very optimistic about democracy. “After the fall of the Soviet Union, the West stopped supporting dictatorships in return for their support in the Cold War,” says Professor of Empirical Political Science Carolien van Ham. “Partly due to these changes in international pressure, many countries started holding elections and became more democratic. By the mid-1990s, and for the first time in history, the world counted more democracies than autocracies. Democracy as a form of governance seemed to have won.”