The most recent Global State of Democracy report released by a European thinktank suggests democracy is “on the back foot” and the US is “backsliding”.
The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) has released their annual Global State of Democracy Report. Democratic trends are recorded from 1975 onwards according to 29 criteria, with 165 nations being individually assessed. The objective of the report is to provide an annual update on democracies across the world and provide data to better inform future progress.
Under the IDEA scheme, nations are sorted into one of three categories: democracies, hybrid governments, and authoritarian regimes.
The report shines a troubling light, revealing a decrease in the number of countries categorised as democracies compared to two years ago. One term highlighted throughout the report is “backsliding”.
“Backsliding” is a subcategory within the larger category of nations prescribed to be democracies. When a nation is denoted as backsliding, it is experiencing a kind of “democratic erosion”, the report says.
“Democratic backsliding, namely the sustained and deliberate process of subversion of basic democratic tenets by political actors and governments, is threatening to become a different kind of pandemic,” wrote International IDEA’s Secretary-General Kevin Casas-Zamora. He notes that backsliding is present in countries accounting for one quarter of the world’s population.
Notably, the report also recategorized the United States from a straightforward democracy to backsliding. However, the report states the “backsliding episode” likely began around 2019.
“Significantly, the United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale,” read the report.
The report attributes some of this backsliding to a “historic turning point” during 2020, when former president Donald Trump “questioned the legitimacy” of national election results. Furthermore, the report contends that Trump’s campaign to challenge the legitimacy of the election results was echoed in Myanmar, Peru, and Israel.
According to the report, more countries are moving in the direction of authoritarianism than at any point recorded since 1995.
However, IDEA discourages the reader from losing hope. Instead, the report highlights the power of the pandemic in uniting countries across the world to collaborate on shared goals.
“However, even in this hour of despair, hope remains. Countries across the world have come together to fight this disease, and thus has ushered in a period of unprecedented global cooperation,” the report elaborated.