Public event

Democracy on trial: Will 2024 change the face of democracy?

This panel is part of Hertie Futures Forum, a high-ranking event series celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Hertie School.

The last few years have not been kind to democracy. The number of democratic countries has shrunk, while the number of illiberal regimes, anocracies and autocracies has risen. Even in once consolidated democracies, disloyal and semi-loyal political groups are gaining influence. 

Democracies can die, slowly and quickly, but they can also prove resilient and even emerge stronger from crises, enjoying greater legitimacy and stability. For many decades, social scientists have worked to gain a better understanding of the economic, political, cultural and social forces that shape the fate of democracies. Fortunately, much progress has been made, and we now know more about how and why democracies flourish, consolidate, stagnate, backslide or collapse. 

Yet how relevant are these insights for those in power and today’s political discourse about the future of democracy? Are politicians eager to seek and take advise? Are social scientists reaching out and translating their insights so that they are actionable for political decision-makers?

No doubt, 2024 will be a critical year for the future of democracy in Germany, Europe and the world. Important elections are coming up: regional elections in Germany, the European elections, and presidential and congressional elections in the United States, among others. How do social scientists and politicians view the prospects of democracy in 2024 and beyond? What do they see as the critical developments or even turning points? What actions are needed to prevent democratic backsliding and to regain greater resilience? 

The Hertie Futures Forum Democracy will address these and other questions in an innovative format that invites audience participation.


  1. Welcome remark by Cornelia Woll, President of the Hertie School
  2. Keynote by Wolfgang Schmidt, Head of the Federal Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Tasks
  3. Panel

    Andrea Römmele, Dean of Executive Education, Professor of Communication in Politics and Civil Society, Hertie School
    Lilli Fischer, Deputy Faction Leader City Council Erfurt, (CDU)
    Steffen Mau, Professor for Makrosoziologie, Humboldt Universität
    Wolfgang Schmidt, Head of the Federal Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Tasks
    Melinda Crane-Roehrs, Chief Correspondent, Deutsche Welle TV
  4. Closing commentary by Helmut K Anheier, Senior Professor of Sociology, Hertie School


Wolfgang Schmidt

  • Wolfgang Schmidt (SPD) is a German polician and a jurist, who has been serving as Head of the Federal Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Tasks since December 2021. He particularly coordinates the collaboration among the various ministries and has been a long-time political companion of Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Schmidt was previously State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Finance in the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel from 2018 to 2021. During his tenure, he has held various prominent positions in German politics and international organizations.

Andrea Römmele

  • Andrea Römmele is Dean of Executive Education and Professor of Communication in Politics and Civil Society at the Hertie School. Her research interests are comparative political communications, political parties and public affairs. Römmele is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal for Political Consulting and Policy Advice and also works as a consultant to political and corporate campaigns. She obtained her master's degree from the San Francisco University within a Cross-Registration Program with the University of California at Berkeley, a PhD from Heidelberg University and a habilitation from the Free University of Berlin.

Steffen Mau

  • Steffen Mau is a German sociologist and professor of macrosociology at the Institute for Social Sciences at the Humboldt University in Berlin. His research focuses on macro-sociology, inequality studies, comparative welfare state research, political sociology, Europeanization, transnationalization, sociology of borders, and digitalization. He has been a member of the Advisory Council for Integration and Migration since 2021. From 2019 to 2021, he served as the Co-Spokesperson of the Research Unit Borders within the Excellence Cluster "Contestations of the Liberal Script".

Lilli Fischer

  • Lilli Fischer was born in Weimar in 2000 and grew up in Erfurt. She has been a city councilor and Deputy Faction Leader for the CDU in the Erfurt City Council since June 2019. Fischer serves as a member of the Committee for Urban Development, Environment, Climate Protection, and Transportation, along with the Youth Welfare Committee. Additionally, she chairs the Subcommittee for Children and Youth Promotion Planning. Currently, she works as a Social Media Consultant for the CDU faction in the Thuringian State Parliament, supporting Faction Leader Prof. Dr. Mario Voigt and CDU Thuringia.

Helmut K. Anheier

  • Helmut K. Anheier is Senior Professor of Sociology at the Hertie School, faculty member at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Luskin School of Public Affairs and visiting professor at LSE Ideas, London School of Economics and Political Science. He served as President of the Hertie School from 2009 to 2018. His research focuses on indicator systems, governance, culture, non-profits, philanthropy, and organizational studies. With over 500 publications, including many in leading journals, he has received numerous national and international awards. Prior to his academic career, he worked as a Social Affairs Officer at the United Nations.

Moderator: Melinda Crane-Roehrs

  • Melinda Crane-Roehrs is a renowned international affairs expert, TV anchor, and commentator. As chief political correspondent at Deutsche Welle TV, she analyzes German and European policy and also hosts the DW talk show „Quadriga“. Crane studied history and political science at Brown University and law at Harvard, and received her PhD in political economy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. As International Affairs Consultant to the discussion show “Sabine Christiansen” she produced interviews with Kofi Annan, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and George Bush, among others.