Indonesia and Pakistan are plagued by sectarian violence despite their embrace of democratic ideals—but why? According to Pankaj Mishra, writing at Bloomberg, their democracy is actually the problem. While officials secretly wield power through extremist groups and conservative Islamists flame religious tensions, elected officials are only making things worse: "In the absence of substantive democracy," writes Mishra, leaders "cynically deploy radical groups to practice power politics."
In Pakistan, for example, mainstream leaders allegedly pay off a Shiite-killing terrorist group because it gathers votes for elections due this year. In Indonesia, lighter political restrictions have allowed militias and terrorist organizations to be officially recognized. Governments, meanwhile, are too fragmented to face extremists or grapple with poverty. And progressive parties have been unable to overcome decades of crushing blows from the ruling elite. "One day, this dyad of dupes and extremists may well be regarded as a byproduct of a particularly unstable and grim phase in the evolution of democracy," writes Mishra. "But that day will come only if democracy amounts to something more than ... a way of further empowering the rich and the powerful." Click for Mishra's full column. (Read more Pakistan stories.)