European think tank adds US to list of ‘backward’ democracies for the first time

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Stockholm – The United States has first joined the annual list of “declining” democracies, think tank International IDEA said on Monday, highlighting “visible deterioration” which it said began in 2019. Globally, more than one in four people live in a backward democracy, a proportion that rises to more than two in three with the addition of authoritarian or “hybrid” regimes, according to the International Institute for Democracy and the electoral assistance based in Stockholm.

“This year, we coded the United States as retreating for the first time, but our data suggests that the episode of retreating started at least in 2019,” he said in his report titled “Global State of Democracy 2021 “.


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“The United States is a high performing democracy and even improved its performance in terms of impartial administration (corruption and predictable enforcement) metrics in 2020. However, declines in civil liberties and government controls indicate that it there are serious problems with the fundamentals. democracy, “Alexander Hudson, co-author of the report, told AFP.

“A historic turning point came in 2020-21 when former President Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results in the United States, ”the report says.

Further, Hudson pointed to a “decline in the quality of freedom of association and assembly during the summer of protests in 2020” following the murder of George Floyd by the police.


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International IDEA bases its assessments on 50 years of democratic indicators in around 160 countries, categorizing them into three categories: democracies (including those that “retreat”), “hybrid” governments and authoritarian regimes.

“The visible deterioration of democracy in the United States, as evidenced by the growing tendency to challenge credible election results, efforts to suppress turnout (in elections) and rampant polarization (…) is one of the most worrying developments, “said Secretary General of International IDEA, Kevin Casas-Zamora.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a group of civic leaders in Kenya that the world was witnessing a “democratic recession,” and he included challenges to the United States which he said , were proof of “how fragile our democracy can be”. ”

“This is an important moment,” Blinken told human rights, labor and anti-corruption advocates at a hotel in Nairobi. “All over the world, over the past decade, we have seen what some have called a ‘democratic recession’.

He said tackling disinformation, political violence, voter intimidation and corruption was key to stopping the decline in democratic principles.

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Casas-Zamora warned of a worldwide ripple effect of unprecedented challenges to the democratic process in the United States, noting: “The violent contestation of the 2020 elections without any evidence of fraud has been reproduced, from different ways, in places as diverse as Myanmar, Peru and Israel. “

The number of backward democracies has doubled over the past decade, now accounting for a quarter of the world’s population. In addition to “established democracies” such as the United States, the list includes EU member states, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.

Two countries that were on the list last year – Ukraine and North Macedonia – were withdrawn this year after their situation improved.

Two others, Mali and Serbia, left the list because they are no longer considered democracies.

As Myanmar has moved from a democracy to an authoritarian regime, Afghanistan and Mali entered this category from its previous label of hybrid governments.


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For the fifth consecutive year, in 2020, the countries turning to authoritarianism outnumber those which are democratizing.

International IDEA expects this trend to continue for 2021.

By 2021, according to the group’s provisional assessment, the world has 98 democracies – the lowest number in many years – as well as 20 “hybrid” governments including Russia, Morocco and Turkey, and 47 authoritarian regimes including China, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Iran.

Adding backward democracies to hybrid and authoritarian states, “we’re talking about 70 percent of the world’s population,” Casas-Zamora told AFP.

“This tells you that something fundamentally serious is going on with the quality of democracy,” he added.

The report says the trend towards democratic erosion has “become more acute and worrying” since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.


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“Some countries, notably Hungary, India, the Philippines and the USA, have (imposed) measures that constitute democratic violations – that is to say measures that are disproportionate, illegal, indeterminate or unrelated to the nature of the emergency, ”the report indicates.

“The pandemic has certainly accelerated and amplified some of the negative trends, especially in places where democracy and the rule of law were struggling before the pandemic,” Casas-Zamora said.


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