India, the world’s largest democracy, has been categorized as a ‘flawed democracy’, with its rank falling to 53rd from the 51st the previous year, according to the 2020 Global Democracy Index released by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). It has listed Pakistan as a ‘hybrid democracy’.
It shows that the world is becoming less and less democratic with each passing year. Last year witnessed the widespread crackdown on civil liberties and political freedoms, leading to a record decline in global democracy.
The report examines the prevailing democracy in 165 independent countries and two autonomous regions around the world. “The democracy has not been in robust health for some time. In 2020 its strength was further tested by the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic,” it claims.
The report claims the average democracy index fell from 5.44 in 2019 to 5.37, indicating by far the worst global score since the index was first produced in 2006. The year 2020 witnessed the worst fall for the democracies, which were mostly worsened by the “government-imposed restrictions on individual freedoms and civil liberties that occurred across the globe in response to the coronavirus pandemic”.
The year 2020 saw the biggest rollback of individual freedoms ever witnessed by the world because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the report says that was not the only reason. The trend has been the same for more than a decade with democratic norms being replaced by authoritarian regimes.
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) February 4, 2021
The index classifies 23 democracies as full democracies, 52 as flawed democracies, 35 as hybrid democracies, and 57 as authoritarian regimes. India has been ranked as a flawed democracy, with its rank worsening by two positions from a year ago and placed at rank 53. The country was ranked 27th in the year 2014, indicating a worsening decline in democratic norms.
Neighboring Pakistan was ranked as a ‘hybrid democracy’ at 105th position, however, the country has improved by two scores from the previous year. The report lists Pakistan as a ‘hybrid system’ along with Turkey, Nigeria, and Bangladesh.
It may be recalled that in the formulation of the report, factors such as civil liberties, electoral system, and political culture and the scope for participation of like-minded people were reviewed.
In March 2020, a similar trend was observed by another nongovernmental, nonpartisan advocacy organization in its survey evaluating 195 countries and 15 territories, indicating that political freedoms and civil liberties across the world were backsliding more often than they are improving.
The report, compiled by Freedom House, claimed democracy and pluralism were under assault around the world. “Dictators are toiling to stamp out the last vestiges of domestic dissent and spread their harmful influence to new corners of the world,” it added.
It cited the victims of government abuses being mostly the ethnic, religious, and other minority groups in both democracies and authoritarian states.
“In fact, such leaders—including the chief executives of the United States and India, the world’s two largest democracies—are increasingly willing to break down institutional safeguards and disregard the rights of critics and minorities as they pursue their populist agendas,” the report mentioned in its opening paragraph.
More than half the world's established democracies have deteriorated over the past 14 years. Our new interactive #FreedomInTheWorld map lets you explore and learn more about these global challenges: https://t.co/xj07gjAq5l pic.twitter.com/EAvOQ6F3kq
— Freedom House (@freedomhouse) March 4, 2020
The report accused the Indian government of taking the “Hindu nationalist agenda to a new level with a succession of policies that abrogate the rights of different segments of its Muslim population, threatening the democratic future of a country long seen as a potential bulwark of freedom in Asia and the world”.
The report also lambasts China for orchestrating “one of the world’s most extreme programs of ethnic and religious persecution, and increasingly applied techniques that were first tested on minorities to the general population, and even to foreign countries”.
It admonished China’s relentless domestic repression through cultural annihilation in Xinjiang, which it said, was alarming because of the lack of adequate international response. The report expressed concerns about the “mass violations of the basic freedoms of millions of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the region”.
“The Communist Party’s totalitarian offensive in Xinjiang is the product of decades of experience in persecuting ethnic and religious minorities, combining coercive measures and technological developments that were previously applied to Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, and others”.
Taiwan, which remains under the threat of Chinese invasion, surprisingly turned out to be the star performer, being upgraded to a “full democracy” status after rising 20 places in the 2020 democracy index, from 31st to 11th. The country witnessed a strong voter turnout in 2020 polls, with increasing democratic norms being established in the country.
It was Norway, which topped The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, with Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Canada making up the top five.
Another notable feature in the report was the downgrading of France as a democracy, which moved from ‘full democracy’ to a ‘flawed democracy’. The country’s score came down to 7.99 from 8.12 in 2019, which the report said, was due to the “restrictions on movement, including multiple lockdowns and, early national curfews”.
“The symbolism of Asia gaining three new “full democracies” (Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan) in 2020 and western Europe losing two (France and Portugal) was apt, as the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has accelerated the shift in the global balance of power from the West to the East,” the report added.