Spotting sprouts of democracy

Plenty of Nigerians hoped that their recent presidential election would set a new high bar for democracy – not just for their country, but for all of Africa. Yet when it came time to vote, polling stations were disrupted by violence and ballot shortages, turnout was low, and the electronic system designed to prevent counting fraud faltered. The ruling party candidate, Bola Tinubu, whose campaign slogan was “It’s my turn,” won with just 8.8 million votes in a country of 220 million people. 

A familiar tale in many democracies, perhaps, but a misleading one. For the first time in nearly 20 years, there is evidence that “the world’s long freedom recession may be bottoming out,” according to Freedom House in its latest global survey. Political rights and civil liberties gained ground in 34 countries and lost in 35 – the narrowest gap since 2005. After tracking such data for a half-century, Freedom House finds “heartening proof that democratic progress is always possible.”

“So long as human beings remain true to their natural yearning for liberty, authoritarians will never be secure, and the global movement for democracy will never be defeated,” the report stated.

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