Democracy declined around the world for the sixth consecutive year in 2022 as half the world’s countries slid backwards on indicators such as freedom of expression and political participation, according to a prominent think tank.
In its annual report released this week, the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) said 85 out of 173 countries surveyed had “suffered a decline in at least one key indicator of democratic performance in the past five years”.
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“In short, democracy is still in trouble, stagnant at best, and declining in many places,” IDEA Secretary-General Kevin Casas-Zamora said in its Global State of Democracy 2023 report.
The six-year fall is the longest period of democratic backsliding since records began in 1975.
Casas-Zamora attributed the decline to the global weakening of democratic institutions that otherwise help safeguard human rights and the rule of law.
“But while many of our formal institutions like legislatures are weakening, there is hope that these more informal checks and balances, from journalists to election organizers and anti-corruption commissioners, can successfully battle authoritarian and populist trends,” he said in the report.
The year 2022 was also challenged by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, COVID-19, climate change, and the cost of living crisis that accompanied rising inflation and a global economic downturn after the pandemic.
Europe was named as the highest performing region in democratic terms, but also the scene of backsliding in younger democracies such as Hungary, but also in long-established ones including the United Kingdom. In eastern Europe and Asia, countries such as Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Turkey scored poorly.
In the Americas, the United States moved backwards due to “declines in social group equality”, as did Guatemala and El Salvador, which both saw widespread political turmoil and human rights violations in 2022.
In Africa the decline was exemplified by a wave of coups d’etat.
IDEA bases its indices on more than 100 variables related to political issues including representation, rights, rule of law and participation.