The question looks easy for someone used to living in a democracy but maybe democracy is not always the best of the political regimes. Sometimes the attempt to move to a more democratic regime can bring even more mess and chaos to the country, bringing more problems in its own development – examples of this are the many cases coming from the Arab Spring.
In Libya, for example, after an external military intervention, which helped to remove the dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi, has put the country in a complete chaos, having regions that are controlled by militias where the transitory government have no control. This means that terrorists organisations, like Daesh, can enter in the country easily, provoking more problems for a peaceful resolution of Libya’s problems.
In another case, the Syrian civil war has put the country into the international media centre of attention for bad reasons. A peace process will not be easy in the current situation, many are fractions who claim more autonomy for themselves, as is the case of the Kurds in Northern Syria. To complicate this already complex situation, Daesh is in control of a big part of the Syrian and Iraqi territory, which make them a big threat to both countries. Daesh is turning into a global threat, as we see new terrorist attacks everyday organised by them across the world.
In these two cases, the dictators were the guarantee of a stability that was lost when the population, in search of better life conditions and more freedom, started to protest against them. This stability was guaranteed by the oppression of the population, taking from them their freedom of speech and other freedoms, which for Western populations is something untouchable.
However, despite the freedom of speech that is something normal in democratic regimes, we can also find it in the democratic regimes media control. Turkey, for example: a few months ago the Turkish authorities took control of the best-selling Turkish newspaper because its owner was Fethullah Gülen, founder of the Hizmet Movement.
He was an old ally of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but after a corruption scandal a few years ago the movement is now considered a terrorist organisation by Turkish authorities. Turkey has intensified the “war” against the Hizmet Movement after the 15th July attempted coup, putting freedom of speech in a dangerous situation.
Turkey is seen as emerging economy and a democratic country, with Parliamentary and Presidential elections, but today we can see that the freedom of speech and other freedoms are under more and more government control, as if it were a dictatorship. Despite the high economic growth, when compared with Western European economies, Turkish welfare is suffering setbacks.
This shows that democracy do not guarantee fundamental freedoms – not even the welfare of the population. Democracy can be used to hide aspects normally seen in dictatorships. However, democracy is one of the regimes that creates less problems for the population. It can help them to develop more quickly, having worked well in Western realities like Portugal and Spain.
However, looking to China, we can see that the communist regime is not a barrier to its development; on the contrary, China was able to produce the highest rates of economic growing in this century. Today China is a great economic power; it is helping in its own development, but also committed to international cooperation for development programmes in developing countries.
Looking to other dictatorial regimes which are less open to the outside, we can see that dictatorships do not permit a quick development, but sometimes they are the guarantee of the necessary stability that will allow peace. Peace is a necessary column for sustainable development. One country in constant war cannot use the official development assistance to improve their infrastructure in order to maintain the welfare of its population.
Turning back to the initial question, the acceptable regime will depend always on the local reality. The international community must never try to implement regimes which are similar to Western ideals, in favour of fast development of these countries – these regimes may not help with sustainable development.
Each country or society has its own development rhythm, independently of the regime, faster or slower they are moving in their own direction of development. Setbacks have to be waited out – it is part of the process because a society’s life is made of cycles.
The developed countries must invest in the stability of developing countries, and not wait for a stable democracy to invest. The idea that democracies are the best regimes is wrong – even Western democracies are passing through big crises, making them shiver with the rise of far-right (or far-left) political parties. But with all problems, democracy is still the best of the bad regimes.