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Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife.
The collapse of the Soviet Union created many fledgling democracies in central Europe.
By 2000 Freedom House, an American think-tank, classified 120 countries, or 63% of the world total, as democracies.
But turfing out an autocrat turns out to be much easier than setting up a viable democratic government.
The new regime stumbles, the economy flounders and the country finds itself in a state at least as bad as it was before.
THE protesters who have overturned the politics of Ukraine have many aspirations for their country.
Their placards called for closer relations with the European Union (EU), an end to Russian intervention in Ukraine’s politics and the establishment of a clean government to replace the kleptocracy of President Viktor Yanukovych. Democracies are on average richer than non-democracies, are less likely to go to war and have a better record of fighting corruption.
This is what happened in much of the Arab spring, and also in Ukraine’s Orange revolution a decade ago.
In 2004 Mr Yanukovych was ousted from office by vast street protests, only to be re-elected to the presidency (with the help of huge amounts of Russian money) in 2010, after the opposition politicians who replaced him turned out to be just as hopeless. Where autocrats have been driven out of office, their opponents have mostly failed to create viable democratic regimes.
Governments had steadily extended entitlements over decades, allowing dangerous levels of debt to develop, and politicians came to believe that they had abolished boom-bust cycles and tamed risk.
Many people became disillusioned with the workings of their political systems—particularly when governments bailed out bankers with taxpayers’ money and then stood by impotently as financiers continued to pay themselves huge bonuses.