For more than a decade, Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report, which has been published by the Washington-based pro-democracy watchdog since 1973, has made for pretty grim reading. Since 2006, the report has chronicled a global “democratic recession,” in which the number of countries with diminishing political rights and civil liberties has outpaced those moving in the opposite direction.
But there may now be cause for cautious optimism. Of the 195 countries and 15 territories evaluated, 34 countries saw improvements in political rights and civil liberties, whereas 35 countries lost ground. That represents the narrowest margin recorded between countries that declined and improved since the downward trend began 17 years ago. The report concludes that it signals that “the world’s long freedom recession may be bottoming out.”
Global democracy on the rebound?
The reasons for this potential rebound are two-fold. The first is that many of the factors that made 2020 the worst year for democracy in recent history have since been reversed. “The pandemic had a pretty severe effect on civil liberties around the world, and we’re seeing the last remnants of that lift,” says Yana Gorokhovskaia, the report’s co-author and Freedom House’s research director for strategy and design, noting the impact that COVID-19 restrictions had on freedom of assembly in many countries. In authoritarian states such as China, where the crisis was exploited to further consolidate the state’s power, the restrictions were even more severe.
The second, perhaps more noteworthy, reason is to do with the fact that autocracies are no longer seen as quite as “infallible.” Throughout 2022, authoritarian regimes and illiberal leaders suffered a series of blows. That includes Vladimir Putin’s failure to achieve outright victory in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and Jair Bolsonaro’s failure to win reelection in Brazil even after an attempted coup. Meanwhile, in China, rare demonstrations forced the government into a stunning reversal on its stringent zero-COVID policy; in Iran, women have emerged at the forefront of nationwide anti-regime protests. And in countries such as Venezuela and Afghanistan, governments have presided over humanitarian crises.
Read More: How the World Changed Since Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
“As a form of government, [authoritarianism] relies on repression and coercion,” says Gorokhovskaia. But if 2022 has proven anything, it’s that even with this power, they are not unbeatable. “They actually do face some limits.”
The slow and gradual road to democratic …read more
Source:: Time – World