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Democracy in danger

Thais once marched for the right to vote, but greater political freedom has led to bitter divisions between the middle classes and the poor. It’s the same story in much of the developing world

For decades, political theorists have considered the growth of a middle class to be the key to successful democratisation. Yet, in the last ten years, middle classes across the developing world have begun to defy that claim. From Thailand, Russia and Ukraine to Venezuela, Honduras and the Philippines, as young democracies face new threats, their middle classes have bucked the trend. The causes of this retreat are varied—from elected leaders defying the rule of law to corruption and excessive redistribution of wealth. But as recent events in Thailand have shown, if the middle and poorer classes become divided over democratic…

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