Islam, Democracy and the Middle Class

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Tengku Ahmad Hazri


Some people have been writing pieces echoing the view that there is a close relationship between democracy and the middle class. Recent times have witnessed two important trends whose close links have often been overlooked: the rise of populism on the one hand and the decline of the middle class on the other. Actually they have something in common in that they are both not good for democracy, and in fact represent a departure from democratic ideals. Populism is unfortunately often a euphemism for the opinions of poor, working class and rural or suburban constituencies, as observed in how election demographic maps often portray populist and far-right candidates as typically winning constituencies in rural areas or non-major cities. The presence of a strong middle class is crucial to democracy because the middle class has the economic base that translates into political independence, thereby enabling them to demand greater rights and accountability from the government. The middle class stands to benefit most from the presence of political institutions and the infrastructure needed to sustain democracy (such as the rule of law and protection of rights, most notably property rights) and hence are most likely to demand them from the state.

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