An alarming new report from the V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) Institute at the University of Gothenberg in Sweden states that by the end of 2022, 72% of the world’s population (5.7 billion people) lived in autocracies, out of which 28% (2.2 billion people) lived in “closed autocracies”.
The report titled Defiance in the Face of Autocratization has further asserted that “advances in global levels of democracy made over the last 35 years have been wiped out.”
The findings of this report should be a cause of global concern for politicians and policy-makers alike.
The report indicates that today there are more closed autocracies than liberal democracies and only 13% of the world’s humans (approximately one billion people) live in liberal democracies.
Amongst the various population-weighted indicators that the report uses to make its determinations on the health of democracy in various countries, it pays particular attention to freedom of expression (declining in 35 countries), increased government censorship of the media (declining in 47 countries), the worsening state repression of civil society actors (going downhill in 37 countries) and a decline in the quality of elections in 30 countries. It also lists Armenia, Greece and Mauritius as “democracies in steep decline”.
Undoubtedly, the last decade has seen the increasing power of autocratic political regimes across the world. Further, when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, many countries scrambled to centralise power and suspend parliamentary decision-making in an attempt to manage the pandemic. Such countries used the pandemic to pass legislations that impinged on their citizens’ rights and freedoms.
Some countries also used the pandemic as an excuse to allow the executive in those countries to assume disproportionate power, vis-à-vis citizens. For instance, in Hungary President Viktor Orbán assumed the power to rule by decree in 2020, then declared a “state of medical crisis” when he was criticised, which allowed his government to keep issuing decrees. In 2022 he declared another state of emergency pursuant to the war in Ukraine.
In the United States, the state of Kentucky outlawed fossil fuel protests and a federal appeals court in Texas upheld a ban on abortions which was to foreshadow the overturning of the Roe v Wade judgment in 2022. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the Knesset and postponed his own trial by suspending the courts and increasing surveillance.
In India, the government wasted no time in announcing a new domicile law for Jammu and Kashmir in April 2020 that allowed people who have resided there for 15 years or those who have studied there for seven years and appeared in Class 10 and 12 exams, from acquiring permanent residence.
Clearly, the trend towards autocratisation in many parts of the world began intensifying in 2020. The V-Dem report lists 42 countries as “autocratising” at the end of 2022. This, it says, is a record number.
India is not an exception to this trend. A sudden lockdown in 2020 displayed how easily the lives of people at the margins of Indian society could be disrupted. In 2021, the V-Dem institute classified India as an “electoral autocracy”, while in the same year, Freedom House listed India as “partly free”. Also in 2021, the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance classified India as a backsliding democracy and a “major decliner” in its Global State of Democracy (GSoD) report.
This story was originally published in thewire.in. Read the full story here