IN the Western media, the conflict in Ukraine is often characterised as a war between an autocratic system and a vibrant democracy; a war between a power-drunk country and a heroic one; a war of good against evil.

There is a chorus from governments and media houses about the need to stop the Russian invasion and to have the invading troops out of Ukraine. There has even been talk of taking the war to Russia and bringing about a regime change there.

But, ultimately, the war is said to be about defending democracy against the onslaught of despotism. It is said that if democracy is not defended in Ukraine, it will be under threat everywhere; in Europe, in Central Asia, and in the Pacific where China is carefully assessing the Western intent and capacity to manoeuvre.

However, do people in the West really care about democracy? In the recent elections in France, less than half the population turned out to vote, with abstention being the highest among the young. In Italy, a referendum on matters related to the judicial system attracted only 20 per cent voters, and in a by-election for a national assembly seat only 10pc of eligible voters bothered to turn up. In the United States, large sections of the population continue to reject the results of the last presidential election.

So if people don’t bother to turn out to vote, or question the outcome of elections, are they really interested in going to war to defend democracy in Ukraine? And, as the cost of the war would inevitably start hitting people with galloping inflation and a possible recession, will the public opinion continue to accept billions being spent on defending democracy in a country that most are unfamiliar with?

Daud Khan
Rome, Italy

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2022

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