STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Half of the world’s countries are suffering democratic decline, ranging from flawed elections to curtailed rights including freedoms of expression and assembly, an intergovernmental watchdog group said on Thursday.
In its annual report, the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) said 2022 was the sixth consecutive year in which countries with net declines outnumbered those with net advances, the longest consecutive fall since its records began in 1975.
“In short, democracy is still in trouble, stagnant at best, and declining in many places,” IDEA Secretary-General Kevin Casas-Zamora said in the report.
The think-tank said the deterioration of democratic guard-rails such as elections, parliaments and independent courts had led to problems in safeguarding the rule of law and holding politicians to account.
“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.
IDEA said that the decline should be viewed in conjunction with the cost-of-living crisis, climate change and Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which posed huge challenges for many elected leaders.
IDEA bases its Global State of Democracy Indices on more than 100 variables and is using four main categories – Representation, Rights, Rule of Law and Participation – to categorise performance.
IDEA said Europe remained the world’s highest-performing region but that there had been significant declines in specific indicators of democratic performance in many established democracies, including Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
It also said Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Turkey had drifted away from the rest of Europe, performing well below the European average across most indicators of democracy.
IDEA said most countries in the Americas had managed to hold credible elections and continued to have a mid-range performance across categories of democracy, though states like El Salvador and Guatemala had experienced recent, rapid dips in performance.
However, the think-tank said there were some green shoots, with surprisingly high rates of political participation and decreasing levels of corruption, especially in Africa.
(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Mark Heinrich)