One size doesn’t fit all: Democracy is not always the best form of government

Tuesday 11 March 2014, 4.20pm | VIDEO NOW ONLINE

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This debate was broadcast on BBC World News.

Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. So said Winston Churchill and who would disagree? One man, one vote, the rule of law, equality and a free press. These are the Enlightenment principles the West has developed over the centuries and fought tooth and nail in countless wars to preserve or to propagate.

But is the assumption that democracy always leads to a more liberal and tolerant society correct? Many would argue that it can lead to quite illiberal outcomes especially where there is profound ethnic division. Take for example Yugoslavia. Slobodan Milosevic – the democratically elected president – left a legacy of more than 200,000 dead in Bosnia and ethnically cleansed more than 800,000 Albanians from their homes in Kosovo. And what if democracy were installed in Syria? It’s not hard to imagine the outcome for the minority groups who for decades have enjoyed the protection of Assad’s regime.

Is democracy always the best outcome?

Speakers for the motion

Rosemary HollisRosemary Hollis

Professor of Middle East Policy Studies and Director of the Olive Tree Scholarship Programme at City University


Martin JacquesMartin Jacques

Senior Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University, Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy in Washington DC. He is the author of the global bestseller When China Rules the World



Speakers against the motion

Ian BremmerIan Bremmer

American political scientist specializing in US foreign policy and states in transition


Andriy ShevchenkoAndriy Shevchenko

Member of the Ukrainian Parliament and of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s party ‘Fatherland’ . He is currently the First Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Committee, and has been at the forefront of the pro-European protests in 2013-14



Nik GowingNik Gowing

BBC World News presenter