The 2018 Global Democracy Report – The American Plunge – UK to follow
By TruePublica: ‘Varieties of Democracy’ or V-Dem produces the largest global dataset on democracy with some 19 million data for 201 countries from 1789 to 2017. Involving over 3,000 scholars and other country experts, V-Dem measures hundreds of different attributes of democracy. The complete dataset now includes more than 200 political units and over 450 indicators and indices of democracy. They work with some 3,000 individuals from almost all the countries in the world in order to assemble the 19 million data points in the V-Dem datasets.
Political exclusion is undermining the relevance of democratic rights and freedoms. After 40 years of mostly steady growth, several egalitarian aspects of democracy are now on the decline and this trend affects about 2 billion people in the world. As a result, only one-in-seven people now lives in a society where political power is distributed at least somewhat equally by gender and socio-economic status. The rich have gained significantly more power in countries that are home to one-fourth of the world’s population over the past decade. Among different regime types, only liberal democracies tend to provide consistent safe-guards for its citizens against exclusion based on structural inequalities.
V-Dem makes some very interesting points in the extensive 95 page 2018 report. Whilst there are various forms of democracy around the world, V-Dem classifies and then ranks each country as either; a liberal democracy, an electoral democracy, an electoral autocracy or a closed autocracy.
One of the most important points the report makes among many, is that the worlds most powerful country, the United States is in serious democratic decline. Figure 1.14 shows a plunge on certain important indicators but overall in all indicators the U.S. has been in democratic decline for 10 years and is now straddled by the likes of Slovakia one place above it and Jamaica one place below it. It has almost completely dropped out of the classification of liberal democracy, held now by just 26 countries around the world.
Two-thirds of EU member states were ranked higher than the U.S.
Britain has also been backsliding in the last ten years and whilst it still sits in the Liberal Democracy category, it is placed 16 in that group and a continuation of its trajectory would see it fall into the category below and join America’s current place in another decade. Britain currently sits 10th of the current 28 member bloc of the European Union.
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Britain is also likely to follow that of the US. With press freedom rankings falling year on year for over a decade, a country now classed as an endemic surveillance state by the UN, a sudden increase in secret courts, reductions of civil liberty, sweeping police powers and mass intrusions into privacy, the trajectory for Britain looks almost certain.
Israel has now declined some twenty places in just two decades and is now on a par with African nations such as Namibia and Senegal and well below that of Tunisia, the Middle-East’s highest placed democracy. Other countries well ahead of Israel are; São Tomé and Príncipe, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and 49 other countries.
We’ve taken some excerpts from the overall report, which you can read in full HERE.
While the global level of democracy is not changing dramatically, and the majority of the world’s population lives in a democracy, one-third of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – live in countries with declining democratic traits.
Even though the electoral aspects of democracy have improved in many countries in recent years, freedom of expression, media, and civil society are under threat in other parts of the world. The report identifies disquieting trends in several key countries, such as Brazil, India, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and the United States.
For the first time since 1979, the number of countries backsliding (24) on democracy is again the same as the number of countries advancing.
Autocratization (meaning democratization in reverse) is now manifesting in a number of large countries including Brazil, India, Russia, Turkey, and the United States.
The United States has also seen a ten-year education equality decline along with 14 other countries like Brazil, Ukraine and Afghanistan, whilst Eritrea, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia and Rwanda have all made gains in the same time.
Autocratization affects one-third of the world’s population or some 2.5 billion people. This represents a massive reduction in the global protection of rights and freedoms.
Some aspects of democracy that make elections truly meaningful are also in decline. Media autonomy, freedom of expression and alternative sources of information, and the rule of law have undergone the greatest declines among democracy metrics in recent years. This trend affects both autocracies and democracies.
Even in democracies, however, some groups – women, minorities and the poor – are systematically disadvantaged in their access to political power. Political exclusion reduces the scope of liberal and electoral democratic rights and freedoms.
Exclusion due to socio-economic status has continuously become more severe since the 1970s.
Only six countries registered a higher level of inclusiveness in the distribution of political power by socio-economic status between 2007 and 2017, while 14 nations declined significantly.
The bar for being classified as an “electoral democracy” is reasonable but not exceedingly demanding: holding fairly free and fair multiparty party elections.
There were 56 electoral democracies in the world in 2017. Liberal democracies fulfil a more demanding notion of democracy that also includes the rule of law and horizontal constraints on the executive. Only 39 countries met this standard in 2017 (note from TruePublica editor: only 26 of these are actually fully placed in this category – with others merely bordering it).
In total 95 out of the 178 countries in the V-Dem dataset were classified as democracies in that year. In electoral autocracies, elections are held and some political and civil liberties exist but their meaningfulness is undermined by government repression, censorship, and intimidation. Another 56 countries had this type of regime in 2017. Countries rated extremely low in terms of democracy, where the chief executive is not accountable to citizens, are classified as closed autocracies. We find 27 such countries in 2017.
Over the past 10 years, 20 countries have slipped down one category. Among them we find four members of the EU lost the status as liberal democracy to become electoral democracies: Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, and Slovakia.
Eight democracies broke down over the past ten years and are now classified as electoral autocracies: Comoros, Honduras, Iraq, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Turkey, Ukraine, and Zambia. Four countries that used to be electoral democracies are now classified as closed: Palestine (West Bank), Syria, Yemen, and Uzbekistan.
We find the world’s most populous democracies – the United States and India – as backsliders on democracy in the V-Dem data. They are thus joining other democracies we registered as backsliders, such as Brazil, Hungary, Poland, and Suriname.
In particular, the United States’ decline combined with an explicit denunciation of democracy as a foreign policy priority by the Trump administration does not bode well. Three emerging powers among the BRICS nations also register significant backsliding – Brazil, Russia and India. China remains at the end of the autocratic regime spectrum. Among the Eastern European countries, Poland and Hungary are key regional power players that are backsliding significantly.
Turkey continues its descent into dictatorship with every passing year, but it has now comes close to hitting rock-bottom.
Brazil, Croatia, Poland, and Romania are now at middling levels on the whole Liberal Democracy Index after suffering significant declines over the last two years. In Poland, swift and far-reaching constitutional changes have reduced checks and balances, affecting, in particular, the judiciary. Similarly, the Romanian government has limited the rule of law and individual liberties – allegedly in order to curb corruption.
Read the full report HERE