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Opinion: Cherry on the Cake? Democracy is Falling
Similarly to India, in Ukraine, despite some positive changes, democracy is still being threatened by inappropriate anti-corruption measures and police interventions, and the persecution of minority groups, journalists and activists, making it a transitioning democracy. 
19 January, 2022

If democracy is a synonym of freedom, then that, along with civil rights, is falling too – quite rapidly, I should say. And when a cracked pillar shatters, the cloud of dust unveils the fragmented remains of lost ideals.    

It is no news that democracy is in decline. According to the report Freedom in the World 2021, it has been so since 2006. Released by American Freedom House – founded in 1941 to promote democracy as the only political system to further global freedom – it suggests that countries that recorded a decline in political and civil rights are more than those advancing. To put it simply, “fewer than a fifth of the world’s people now live in fully free countries”, following the “15th consecutive year of decline in global freedom”. As authoritarian figures become stronger and poverty increases across the world, democracy is falling on its knees. As for every already onset world issue, the pandemic is playing its part. According to the 2021 International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) report, many democratic governments have adopted more authoritarian measures to limit the pandemic, such as restricted mobility and mandatory vaccines in some countries. And just like that, authoritarian regimes are taking advantage of  current weaknesses to take on more power by limiting – in some countries even totally abolishing – civil liberties. Democracy is backsliding in a tense geopolitical climate.  

Political and civil polarisation in the US is intense, so much so that you would not  sound any crazier than the Mad Hatter questioning the likelihood of a second American civil war. The situation worsened after Trump’s groundless accusations of Biden’s fraudulent election, accusations that fostered feelings of anger and injustice in some American citizens, and that ultimately prompted the Capitol Hill attack. This scheme was mimicked around the world. The International IDEA report identified a trend of similar unfounded accusations and boycotts between 2020 and 2021, increasing electoral violence, in Myanmar, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Côte d’Ivoire. The latter “was reclassified as a hybrid – between a democracy and an authoritarian – regime in the 2020 GSoD classification” since the country does not comply with the democracy criteria anymore. Mali is now labelled as authoritarian, and Serbia is no longer a democracy. In December, President Biden held a virtual summit on democracy to “push back against autocratic encroachment and human rights violations”. According to International IDEA, early signs of American democracy deteriorating date back to before 2016 and evident backsliding in 2019, making it a backsliding democracy. Extremely dangerous is Jan 6th denialism. Denialism by the part of extreme rightists means they feel no shame, and they are ready for a second round with no regrets. This is certainly Donald Trump’s strength and a threat to American democracy. Amongst dozens of Democrats at the House of Representatives this Jan. 6thonly two were the Republicans who attended the Anniversary Observance.  

Beginning of 2021, India was degraded to a “partially free democracy” by Freedom House, following an increase in the breach of citizens’ rights and liberties, including journalists’ and activists’ coercion, a series of attacks on Muslims and oppression of human rights organisations. Speaking of journalism, freedom of the press is at stake in Hong Kong, after democratic websites and other newspapers were shut down, along with journalists and editors imprisoned. Similarly to India, in Ukraine, despite some positive changes, democracy is still being threatened by inappropriate anti-corruption measures and police interventions, and the persecution of minority groups, journalists and activists, making it a transitioning democracy.  

Unsurprisingly, Belarus is not free, scoring low for political rights, 2/40, and civil liberties, 9/60, in 2021. The current normal is characterised by allegedly rigged elections, unfairly elected candidates, imprisonment of opposers, peaceful protests shutdown, inadequate police measures, government’s control over the media, restrictions on religious freedom. Belarus is only one of Eastern Europe countries contributing to the deterioration of democracy. Poland’s democracy is one of the many that has degraded the most in the last decade, despite being renowned for its successful democratic transformation. With frequent attacks on gender equality and LGBTQIA+ rights, restrictive abortion legislation, women violence, children’s rights, continuous pressure on the Judiciary, constrained media and persecution of journalists and unlawful refusals of asylum seekers’ entry in the country as per EU law, Poland has been downgraded.  

Conservative political leaders are known to be bold, resulting in the potential risk of growing aggressive communities of followers, aggressive in their actions, in their words, in their ideologies. The greatest democratic leaders, governments and advocates did not build democracy in one day, we cannot afford to let the deeply rooted seeds of democracy vanish and, along with them, all the civil liberties that democracy champions. Democracy is based on principles, values, and freedom. Democracy has proved to be resilient. Democracy is the concept of freedom, fairness, and equality. We shall not forget this, we shall demand it.  

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