“The pandemic has consolidated the power of autocratic regimes and has eroded freedoms and the rule of law in democratic countries.” This is the devastating conclusion of the Report State of Democracy in the world 2021, conducted by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), an intergovernmental body based in Sweden and partly funded by the European Union. The study highlights that this year four democracies have been lost due to fraudulent elections or military coups while authoritarian tendencies in democracies have been accentuated, which, under the mask of fighting the coronavirus, “have taken disproportionate, unnecessary or illegal ”such as the politicization of justice, the restriction of civil liberties and the rights of minorities in countries such as India, Brazil, Hungary, Poland or Slovenia. In this regard, the report, which does not discuss the health measures adopted by the countries, only cites Spain for the declaration of unconstitutionality of the states of alarm. As the secretary general of International IDEA, Kevin Casas-Zamora, former vice president of Costa Rica, has stated: “The political and social failures revealed by the pandemic will draw more people closer to populist and authoritarian leaders who rarely provide lasting solutions to the concerns of the citizenship”.
The 78-page report that analyzes the situation in some 160 countries, cuts to the chase and reviews region by region the democratic health of the world, in which two-thirds of the population lives in declining democracies or authoritarian regimes. In Asia, the cases of Afghanistan stand out, after the Taliban seized power; Hong Kong, suffocated in its freedoms by Beijing and Myanmar (formerly Burma) by the coup of the generals, without forgetting the situation in the Philippines, Sri Lanka or India, countries victims of militarism and ethnic nationalism. International IDEA emphasizes in this regard how “China’s influence also puts at risk the legitimacy of the democratic model.”
In Africa and the Middle East, areas less affected by the pandemic, he recalls that there have been four military coups – Chad, Guinea Conakry, Mali and Sudan – and elections without democratic guarantees have been held in Algeria, Egypt and Syria. As for America, although it applauds the democratic advances in Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, it emphasizes its erosion in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and the United States, a country in which it places special emphasis on the democratic deterioration that has suffered after the I pass through the presidency of Donald Trump.
Democratic setbacks in Poland, Hungary and Slovenia
In the case of Europe, he insists on the democratic setback that is being experienced in Poland, Hungary and, to a lesser degree, in Slovenia, and emphasizes how non-democratic states such as Russia, Turkey, Belarus and Azerbaijan “have intensified their repressive practices ”For fear of the contagion effect of democratic revolutions.
International IDEA generally agrees in its pessimism with the writer Anne Applebaum, author of The decline of democracy (Editorial Debate), who in a recent article published in the American magazine The Atlantic points out that if the twentieth century was a history of slow progress toward the victory of liberal democracy over other ideologies — communism, fascism, violent nationalism — the twenty-first century is, so far, a history of regression.
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However, the study celebrates the strength of civic movements against repression and the rise of those fighting climate change and racial injustice during the pandemic despite severe restrictions imposed by governments. Thus, it counts up to 80 countries where there have been protests in favor of democracy, such as in Belarus, Cuba, Sudan and Myanmar. It also warns “against the serious threat of misinformation and baseless accusations of electoral fraud as seen in Myanmar, Peru and the United States.”
The study warns in its conclusions that democracies in the world are at a crossroads and that leaders, institutions and citizens must demonstrate that this is the best form of government. With that intention, it recommends political actions to promote global democratic renewal “by adopting more equitable and sustainable social contracts, reforming existing political institutions and strengthening defenses against authoritarianism.” Despite the general deterioration, many democracies have demonstrated their resilience and they have introduced or expanded innovations and adapted their practices and institutions in record time despite the challenges of the pandemic, such as holding credible elections.
This annual report is published weeks before the Summit for Democracy called by US President Joe Biden for the next 9 and 10 December. The meeting aims to bring together virtually leaders of government, civil society and the private sector to discuss the challenges facing democracies on three axes of discussion: defense against authoritarianism, fight against corruption and promotion of respect to human rights. On the American continent, the White House has so far not invited Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti. Nor to Guatemala, which has caused controversy in the Central American country.
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