A report from The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) released Monday that detailed the deterioration of Democracy during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the majority of countries studied taking steps to curtail the pandemic that also curtailed democracy.
“Many democratic governments are backsliding,” the report read, adding that 64% of the democratic nations they looked at took what IDEA considered “disproportionate, unnecessary or illegal” steps to try to fight COVID-19.
It isn’t just democracies that are acting in these ways, the report said. Autocratic regimes have become “even more brazen in their repression,” restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law.
“Authoritariaism is deepening in non-democratic regimes” and “2020 was the worst on record, in terms of the number of countries affected by deepening autocratization,” the group reported.
US democracy a major concern
The United States was one of the countries of most concern to the group, along with Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.
“The pandemic broadened the pre-existing rift between high-performing democracies in Western Europe and weaker counterparts in Central and Eastern Europe,” said Sam Van Der Staak, head of the groups’s Program Regional Europe about the report’s findings, the AP reported.
As far as the U.S., which has been one of the most democratic nations in the world since its founding, there has been an erosion of legislative rule and an encroachment of executive orders, which are by nature more autocratic.
As the pandemic hit, a majority of Americans decided to put safety before liberty, but that should have been done by people’s free choice and not by government edicts. Because a majority agreed with the edicts, though, they were allowed to stand in many cases (though some have successfully been fought in court).
According to the IDEA report, the number of democracies that have lessened since 2020 has doubled. It’s a troubling statistic, but hardly unexpected when people are fearing for their lives–even if some of that fear is overblown.
“This is the time for democracies to be bold, to innovate and revitalize themselves,” International IDEA Secretary-General Kevin Casas-Zamora said in a statement.
The group was hopeful about pro-civic movements and protests in 80 countries around the world, but did report that repression of those movements took place in Belarus; Cuba; Eswatini, previously known as Swaziland; Myanmar; and Sudan.
The report was released ahead of President Joe Biden’s Dec. 9-10 virtual “summit for democracy,” where he will push for a broadening of democracy around the world, even though some would say he has had a chilling effect on it in his own country.