This Year Calls for Democrats Willing To Defend Themselves

The wars and crises that the world has brought with it into the new year will probably not make 2024 any better than last year. That’s particularly because no easing up, let alone a solution, is in sight for the largest conflicts that are absorbing the attention of not only the European public. In the Middle East, the brutality and tenacity with which both sides are going at each other stifles all hope that the Israelis and Palestinians could be on the way to a peace deal any time soon. And as he made very clear a few weeks ago, Russian leader Vladimir Putin has no interest in ending the war in Ukraine in any form. Quite the contrary. And especially not now that the country’s weapons production is operating at full speed, and the apparatus of domestic repression is so efficient that protesting at home against the senseless daily feeding of hundreds of Russian soldiers to the “flesh wolves” on the front lines next door has become impossible.

More adversity for the so-called Western world is appearing in precisely those elections that are supposed to be the peak of democracy. Those who are threatening to emerge victorious after voting not only in the coming European elections in June, but also in the presidential election in the U.S. in November, are the same people who are trying to take apart these democracies. They share a common intent to divide society and pit people against each other by seeding distrust and hate and by spreading half-truths and even lies. They would rather do that than face the increasingly complex challenges of bringing people together with the proposal that a more or less acceptable solution can be found for everyone in these difficult times.

The predicted gains in the European elections by right-wing extremist, populist and other opponents of the process of European collaboration may be in an inferior position compared with the political forces that continue to participate constructively in shaping the EU. But the growth of the former in national parliaments in Europe could make it unnecessarily more difficult to work in the interest of the people in the EU. The looming disaster of the reelection of Donald Trump as U.S. president, which seems increasingly more possible, is much more sobering in comparison. And it is not in any way limited to the U.S.

But in defiance of all the doomsayers, the recent past has shown that the rule of law is by no means surrendering to authoritative forces. In Poland, a change in administration has been brought about that is expected to move the country away from the anti-democratic path down which the Law and Justice Party had led it. In Serbia, the people are taking to the streets to vehemently protest the election manipulation by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who curries favor with the dictator in Moscow. And the U.S. states Colorado and Maine have decided, even if the ruling is not final, that Trump should be prohibited from participating in the presidential election pursuant to the Constitution because of his participation in an attempted coup on Jan. 6, 2021.

2024 will be challenging for everyone who wants to continue living in countries and societies that are free, open and grounded in democratic principles and the rule of law. Here’s to as many people as possible, all across the world, proving themselves willing to defend democracy.

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