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They tend to speak out only when democratic norms are violated by unfriendly governments (as in Russia and Venezuela or in Bolivia) and soft-pedal abuses when allies (such as Ethiopia, Iraq, or Pakistan) are involved.
Elsewhere in the developing and postcommunist worlds, democracy has been a superficial phenomenon, blighted by multiple forms of bad governance: abusive police and security forces, domineering local oligarchies, incompetent and indifferent state bureaucracies, corrupt and inaccessible judiciaries, and venal ruling elites who are contemptuous of the rule of law and accountable to no one but themselves.
Western policymakers can assist in this process by demanding more than superficial electoral democracy.
By holding governments accountable and making foreign aid contingent on good governance, donors can help reverse the democratic recession.
And aspirations for democratic progress have been thwarted everywhere in the Arab world (except Morocco), whether by terrorism and political and religious violence (as in Iraq), externally manipulated societal divisions (as in Lebanon), or authoritarian regimes themselves (as in Egypt, Jordan, and some of the Persian Gulf monarchies, such as Bahrain).
Before democracy can spread further, it must take deeper root where it has already sprouted.
BEYOND THE FAÇADE Western policymakers and analysts have failed to acknowledge the scope of the democratic recession for several reasons.
First, global assessments by the Bush administration and by respected independent organizations such as Freedom House tend to cite the overall number of democracies and aggregate trends while neglecting the size and strategic importance of the countries involved.
Emerging democracies must demonstrate that they can solve their governance problems and meet their citizens' expectations for freedom, justice, a better life, and a fairer society.
Many people in these countries -- especially the poor -- are thus citizens only in name and have few meaningful channels of political participation.
There are elections, but they are contests between corrupt, clientelistic parties.
Assessments often fail to apply exacting standards when it comes to defining what constitutes a democracy and what is necessary to sustain it.
Western leaders (particularly European ones) have too frequently blessed fraudulent or unfair elections and have been too reluctant to criticize more subtle degradations of democracy.
In December 2007, electoral fraud in Kenya delivered another abrupt and violent setback.