All around the world, trust in elections and the elected is collapsing and, more sinisterly, we are witnessing the deliberate use and abuse of democratic processes for undemocratic ends. These could be the last days of liberal democracy.
Venezuela is in the news because of alleged serious electoral fraud by the authoritarian President Maduro and his party. People are angry, people are hungry. This is a return to the bad old days in South America when dictators ruled. Only now, instead of using the military or police services, megalomaniacs manipulate voters to extinguish all opposition.
Meanwhile, the US seems to be suffering from incurable political spasms. Trump isn't a huge joke. This is really not funny. The last few months show how the US constitution and system is easily disabled by erratic, disrespectful, overweening leaders.
As Lesley Vinjamuri, director of the Centre on Conflict, Rights and Justice, wrote this week: "The United States' moral authority has always been tinged by hypocrisy but Trump's blatant disregard for liberal values has taken this to an entirely new level."
Trump got the top job by promising to make America great again by reinstating reactionary values. It worked.
As it has in Turkey, once one of the most enlightened and safe democracies in the Muslim world. Thousands of journalists, academics, civil servants, human rights activists and other blameless people are in prison. The near-sacred constitution is being shredded by the megalomaniac Erdogan. Trump likes this leader a whole lot. And 'elected' Narendra Modi, too, prime minister of India.
Seventy years ago, the British Raj ended. At midnight on 15 August, India and Pakistan became two democratic nations. Partition, a bequest of the devious old rulers, left almost 13 million people displaced. Religion determined where they could thenceforth belong. Inter-communal hatreds, rapes, torture, burnings and killings shattered what should have been a time of high hope and much glory.
In spite of the violence and hardships, people in both lands kept faith in democracy. At long last they had the right to vote. They believed that right opened up infinite possibilities before them. (Remember, there was no democracy for colonial subjects under British rule). That optimism has faded in both countries.
India, a secular state and the world's largest democracy is turning into a Hindu nationalist state with oppressive inclinations. Narendra Modi won the last election because he promised to take back his country for the Hindu majority. And to make India great again. (Trump and Modi are true kindred spirits).
When I was there this February, I could feel the undercurrents of intolerance. Minorities are more vulnerable and less safe. Freedom of speech, once a fundamental guiding principle in India, is now no longer guaranteed. Three well known writers told me they had been threatened by in real life and online, because their books are deemed 'unpatriotic'. Bollywood stars and movie makers are also pursued and terrorised. I met two of the thugs who openly admitted they had 'bashed up' directors who had 'insulted Hindu nationalism'.
Pakistan is even more troubled and unfree. British Pakistani acquaintances tell me they feel only shame when they look at their old homeland. Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister until last week, has been removed from office by the Supreme Court because he failed to declare his full earnings. These are small crimes in the scheme of things. But he is gone and someone even worse may well replace him. That's the way it goes in this unstable state. Since 1947, not one prime minister in Pakistan has served a full term. Every single one of the elected leaders was accused of industrial scale corruption.
I went to the Middle East in 2012, after the first Arab Spring uprisings. World citizens were swept away by the drama and liberation movements. Egyptians, Syrians, Iraqis were ecstatic. Finally, they believed, every adult would get the fundamental human right to choose their politicians. What happened next?
Either fanatic Muslim parties won or old military men took over. On Monday a letter arrived from the sister of a young Egyptian teacher: "We were so happy to see you in our home. But everything changed. My sister killed herself. They were following her because she went to protest. My beautiful sister. Maybe it was better when we had no votes. We had no power, but we lived. Now we are dying. We don't want democracy any more. It broke our hearts."
Millions of democrats are feeling the same disappointment and pain. Sam Shepard, the illustrious American actor and writer, passed away last week. In 2004, he wrote: "Democracy is a fragile thing. You have to take care of it. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it is no longer democracy. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism."
We are now an inch away from democratic totalitarianism. Be afraid. Be very afraid.