Blog post

Praise for representative democracy

Quote this article :
Maillard, S. 2023. «Praise for representative democracy»Blogpost, Paris: Institut Jacques Delors , 1st March.

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For more than a year now, Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine has had the same objective: to prevent a liberal democracy from flourishing in what he considers to be the Russian world. Making a genuine democracy work is the first criteria for membership of the European Union. By submitting Ukraine’s application just after the Russian invasion of February 24th 2022, Volodymyr Zelensky was signalling to his aggressor that he had no intention of abandoning the establishment of democracy in his country, quite the contrary. And to rally support for the Ukrainian cause, he constantly addressed the first institution that embodies the democratic functioning of a regime everywhere: the parliament.

President Zelensky’s speeches to parliamentary bodies over the past year deserve to be listed. Between his first virtual declaration to the European Parliament on March 1st 2022 and the one he made on the spot before the same assembly during his visit to Brussels on February 9th, there were some twenty of such speeches. From the House of Commons to the US Congress, via the Bundestag, the Knesset, the Cortes (Spanish parliament), the Vouli (Greek parliament), the Dail (lower house of the Irish parliament), not forgetting the French Assemblée Nationale (on March 23rd 2022). A real tour of the hemicycles.

One might think that the head of the resistance of a State besieged day and night by bombs would have better things to do than to address the Albanian, Slovenian or Icelandic parliaments or the Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies, among many others. This great communicator has surely understood that the most honourable and respectful way of soliciting humanitarian, financial and/or military and, above all, political support from a people is through its representatives. This should reassure us about Volodymyr Zelensky’s conception of democracy. The sum of his speeches to the elected representatives of universal suffrage is a tribute to representative democracy at a time when it is going through a deep crisis in many countries, of which abstention, extreme polarisation, splintering and/or scandals are the worrying symptoms.

Although the executive traditionally holds the competence in foreign affairs, the Ukrainian president has also been able to do some parliamentary diplomacy in his own way. The war requires it. So does its duration. The human, geopolitical, security, energy and economic stakes of this conflict, which shows no outcome of any sort today, are of primary interest to national and European representatives. The very object of this war, the right to democracy on our continent, requires the full attention, awareness and mobilisation of our elected representatives. In France, support for Ukraine and its future in Europe certainly deserve a major parliamentary debate. It is up to the members of parliament to rise to the occasion.

Sébastien Maillard,

Director of the Jacques Delors Institute

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