"Democracy" is not the rule of the people. It is government by periodically vetted representatives of the people.
Democracy is not tantamount to a continuous expression of the popular will as it pertains to a range of issues. Functioning and fair democracy is representative and not participatory. Participatory "people power" is mob rule, not democracy.
Granted, "people power" is often required in order to establish democracy where it is unprecedented. Revolutions - velvet, rose, and orange - recently introduced democracy in Eastern Europe, for instance. People power - mass street demonstrations - toppled obnoxious dictatorships from Iran to the Philippines and from Peru to Indonesia.
As heads of the state in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and East Europe can attest, these vital lessons are lost on the dozens of "new democracies" the world over. Many of these presidents and prime ministers, though democratically elected (multiply, in some cases), have fallen prey to enraged and vigorous "people power" movements in their countries.
And these breaches of the democratic tradition are not the only or most egregious ones.
The West boasts of the three waves of democratization that swept across the world 1975. Yet, in most developing countries and nations in transition, "democracy" is an empty word. Granted, the hallmarks of democracy are there: candidate lists, parties, election propaganda, and voting. But its quiddity is absent. It is being consistently hollowed out and rendered mock by election fraud, exclusionary policies, cronyism, corruption, intimidation, and collusion with Western interests, both commercial and political.
The new "democracies" are thinly-disguised and criminalized plutocracies (recall the Russian oligarchs), authoritarian regimes (Central Asia and the Caucasus), or Vichy-like heterarchies (Macedonia, Bosnia, and Iraq, to mention three recent examples).
The new "democracies" suffer from many of the same ills that afflict their veteran role models: murky campaign finances, venal revolving doors between state administration and private enterprise, endemic corruption, self-censoring media, socially, economically, and politically excluded minorities, and so on. But while this malaise does not threaten the foundations of the United States and France - it does imperil the stability and future of the likes of Ukraine, Serbia, and Moldova, Indonesia, Mexico, and Bolivia.
Worse still, the West has transformed the ideal of democracy into an ideology at the service of imposing a new colonial regime on its former colonies. Spearheaded by the United States, the white and Christian nations of the West embarked with missionary zeal on a transformation, willy-nilly, of their erstwhile charges into paragons of democracy and good governance.
This self-righteousness would have been more tolerable had the West actually meant and practiced what it preached, however self-delusionally. Yet, in dozens of cases in the last 60 years alone, Western countries intervened, often by force of arms, to reverse and nullify the outcomes of perfectly legal and legitimate popular and democratic elections. They did so because of economic and geopolitical interests and they usually installed rabid dictators in place of the deposed elected functionaries.
This hypocrisy cost them dearly. Few in the poor and developing world believe that the United States or any of its allies are out to further the causes of democracy, human rights, and global peace. The nations of the West have sown cynicism and they are reaping strife and terrorism in return.