According to an international think tank, nearly half of the countries around the world are experiencing a decrease in the strength of their democracies. This decline is a cause for concern.
In its annual report, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) said that 85 out of 173 countries surveyed had “suffered a decline in at least one key indicator of democratic performance in the past five years.”
The setbacks ranged from flawed elections to curtailed rights, including the freedom of expression and right to assembly, the Stockholm-based watchdog said. Other variables included representation, participation and rule of law.
The report named “declines in social group equality in the United States, freedom of the press in Austria and access to justice in the United Kingdom,” as examples of concerning developments.
“In short, democracy is still in trouble, stagnant at best, and declining in many places,” IDEA Secretary-General Kevin Casas-Zamora said.
European democracies also deteriorating
While Europe remains the highest-performing region, several established democracies including Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and the UK are deteriorating, the report said.
Meanwhile, countries such as Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Turkey performed well below the European average.
“This is the sixth year that we’ve seen more countries with democratic declines than improvements,” IDEA program officer Michael Runey said.
“We’re also seeing declines in historically high performing democracies in Europe and North America and in Asia.”
What is behind the decline?
The think tank said the decline in democratic performance should be viewed in conjunction with the cost of living crisis, climate change and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — which posed major challenges for elected leaders.
It specifically noted a downturn tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Casas-Zamora said that despite the deterioration of institutions, he maintained hope in alternate forms of democratic checks and balances.
“But while many of our formal institutions like legislatures are weakening, there is hope that these more informal checks and balances, from journalists to election organizers and anti-corruption commissioners, can successfully battle authoritarian and populist trends,” he said.