WASHINGTON, U.S. – Democracy around the world is declining, being gradually eroded and the trend that became the hallmark of the 20th century – a move towards democracy, is now in reverse.
The findings, released in the Economist’s Index further went as far as stating that democracy is under siege globally.
The annual index, which tracks the health of the world’s governments and studied the state of democracy across 167 countries in 2017 said the results are depressing.
To start with, the findings showed that in 89 countries, democratic norms look worse than they did last year.
The report’s authors further wrote that just 4.5 percent of the world’s residents live in fully functioning democracies, which is down from 8.9 percent in 2015.
They note that the precipitous drop is primarily due to the United States, which ranked in the 21st spot, with the authors calling it a “flawed democracy.”
The Economist list last year demoted the country from a “full” to “flawed” democracy.
The authors cited a “serious decline” in public trust in U.S. institutions and for the 2017 rankings, they said that the United States didn’t fare any better, retaining its same rank and score.
The report’s authors explained that “U.S. President Donald Trump was able to tap into the dis empowerment felt by voters, who are frustrated with U.S. political and economic stagnation.”
The authors said, “Yet Trump’s presidency has only further polarized the country.”
Further pointing out that Americans remain far apart on issues such as immigration and economic and environmental policy.
They wrote in the report, “The growing divisions between (and within) those who identify as Republicans and Democrats help to explain in part why the Trump administration is finding it so hard to govern, despite controlling both houses of Congress.”
They have also cautioned that “this polarization foreshadows further democratic deterioration, particularly because polarization leads to a less functional government, one less able to compromise and come together to solve big issues.”
The authors pointed out that the “trend toward partisanship is also tied to a shift in confidence in government.”
Making the observation that democratic norms are being eroded around the world, they cited curbs on freedom of speech, declining trust in institutions, a drop in popularity of mainstream political parties and erosion of civil liberties.
What makes matters worse is that a third of the world’s population lives under authoritarian regimes.
According to the Index for 2017, the world’s ten strongest democracies were Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Finland, and Switzerland.
Further, other major European countries, including Britain and Germany made up the list of “full” democracies.
In this list, only one country from the developing world was represented, i.e. Uruguay.
At the other end, North Korea, Syria, Congo and Chad were labelled the world’s most authoritarian places.
While Spain’s democratic status suffered due to Madrid’s attempts at quelling Catalonia’s independence referendum, the rise of strongmen in Eastern Europe led to most countries performing even worse on the democracy index than usual.
The biggest changes were recorded in Venezuela, which is now considered authoritarian, and Indonesia, which dropped significantly in the index.
Authors of the report, however, pointed out, “If 2016 was notable for the populist insurgency against mainstream political parties and politicians in the developed democracies of Europe and North America, 2017 was defined by a backlash against populism.”