Stresstest for Democracy

Demokratie im Stresstest

Stresstest for Democracy: Round table series on the crisis and resilience of Western democracies

A coop­er­a­tion of the Bertels­mann Foun­da­tion and the Center for Liberal Modernity

Liberal western democ­ra­cies are under pressure. From within, they are threat­ened by social, cultural and political polar­i­sa­tion, which populist and extremist forces are building on. The trust in demo­c­ratic insti­tu­tions is declining along with the ability of democ­ra­cies to deal effec­tively with chal­lenges such as climate change, digi­tal­i­sa­tion and global migration. The Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war have also been a resilience test for liberal democ­ra­cies. Further­more, they are chal­lenged from the outside by a new systemic compe­ti­tion with author­i­tarian powers, many of which have also been trying to exert their influence by inter­fering into domestic affairs. In short, the demo­c­ratic order in estab­lished democ­ra­cies is increas­ingly being put to the test, and it is unclear how this stresstest will turn out for Western democracies.

In our discus­sion series, we take a look at some key countries: What is going on in France, the USA, Poland and Hungary, in Israel and the European Union? How can the devel­op­ments in these countries be explained? What is trans­fer­able to Germany, what is different here and why? And what paths can be found out of the multiple crises?

Round Table No. 1:

France after the Parlia­men­tary Elections

September 19th 2022, 6–8 pm

France has voted and with the parlia­men­tary election Macron has lost an absolute majority in the National Assembly. The lack of a majority in the parlia­ment is becoming a problem for the country’s tradition and practice of a strong pres­i­den­tial rule. Addi­tion­ally, there are also deep-seated problems within the French society: (… ) since the yellow vest protests, it has become clear that the dispar­i­ties between urban centres and rural regions harbour poten­tially explosive political tensions. Glob­al­i­sa­tion, immi­gra­tion and European inte­gra­tion are polar­ising issues too. While the tradi­tional parties of the centre-left and centre-right only lead a shadowy existence, right-wing and left-wing populist forces attract visible majori­ties of voters.

How can the results of the parlia­men­tary elections be inter­preted? What do the results of the parlia­men­tary elections mean for French politics and for the EU? Which trends and phenomena can also be observed in Germany, which not and why? We will discuss this together following the keynote speeches by
Dr. Claire Demesmay, expert on Franco-German relations, Deutsch-Franzö­sis­ches Jugendwerk and Michaela Wiegel, political corre­spon­dent for France, Frank­furter Allge­meine Zeitung.

Round Table No. 2:

The USA after the Midterm Elections

November 10th 2022, tba

The US is facing the midterm elections in November and it is becoming clear that the country’s political and cultural divisions have, by no means, been smoothed out with the election of Joe Biden as president. The radical wing of the Repub­li­cans has been gaining strength, Donald Trump has been preparing his comeback, new major campaign issues such as abortion rights reveal the depth of existing cultural and societal polar­i­sa­tion. At the same time, social antag­o­nisms continue unabated.

Why has the Biden admin­is­tra­tion not succeeded in breaking the social and political constel­la­tion that has made a radical Repub­lican faction powerful and Donald Trump – the president?  How long can the US continue to play its role as the guardian of the liberal world order if the Congress remains deeply divided and anti-liberal forces grow stronger? What are the chances of renewing democracy in the USA? And what parallels can be drawn between the USA and Germany?


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