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AP Debate: New democracies still unrealized

Associated Press

DAVOS, Switzerland (AP) – A broad range of world leaders said at an Associated Press debate that while more countries are moving toward democracy, many still lack the accountability and social participation that define true democracies.

The founder of the political party that won Tunisia’s first free elections last year, Rachid Ghannouchi, says the Arab world finally has the opportunity for a “dream” of democracy to emerge. But he cautioned that huge risks remain.

“The process of elections is not enough to achieve democracy. Democracy needs a very rich civil society,” he said. “Democracy without social justice can be transformed into a mafia.”

The debate was taking place Thursday at the World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of global power brokers at the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Some participants have said Western democracy in its current form has run out of steam, and that new models are needed as the balance of world power moves from west to east and as the Internet revolutionizes communication.

But Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said democracy will remain strong as long as it includes all segments of the population.

“If democracy is the rule of the majority and the majority is poor, then democracy has to be about social inclusion,” he said.

U.S. Congressman David Dreier, a Republican from California, said governments need to pay attention to everyone. He singled out the Occupy movement, saying participants need to be a part of the democratic process.

“We can’t say to people be patient. We need to figure out how to address this,” he said.

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