For the first time ever, the United States has been put on an annual list of “backsliding democracies.”
The addition comes from the International IDEA think tank’s “Global State of Democracy 2021” report, which attributes America’s latest inclusion to a “visible deterioration” that has been taking place since 2019.
The Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance shares that on a global scale, more than one in four people live in a backsliding democracy. It has assigned 160 counties into three categories: democracies, “hybrid” governments, and authoritarian regimes.
“The United States is a high-performing democracy, and even improved its performance in indicators of impartial administration (corruption and predictable enforcement) in 2020,” co-author Alexander Hudson told AFP. “However, the declines in civil liberties and checks on government indicate that there are serious problems with the fundamentals of democracy.”
The report claims that a “historic turning point came in 2020-21 when former president Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results” and Hudson said a “decline in the quality of freedom of association and assembly during the summer of protests in 2020” also played a role.
In the last 10 years, the number of backsliding democracies has reportedly doubled, as organization members are calling America’s path one to be worried about.
“The visible deterioration of democracy in the United States, as seen in the increasing tendency to contest credible election results, the efforts to suppress participation (in elections), and the runaway polarisation…is one of the most concerning developments,” said secretary general Kevin Casas-Zamora.
The number of backsliding democracies now accounts for a quarter of the world’s population, according to the organization, as Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia also fall into that category. Ukraine and North Macedonia were removed from the list this year following improving situations. And for the fifth year in a row, countries leaning toward authoritarianism have outnumbered those experiencing democratization, the Guardian wrote.
“The pandemic has certainly accelerated and magnified some of the negative trends, particularly in places where democracy and the rule of law were ailing before the pandemic,” Casas-Zamora said.
The news comes a week after Sweden-based nonprofit V-Dem shared findings that nearly all American allies have faced a level of democratic erosion since 2010, including weakening election fairnes and other elements. This has taken place as U.S. allies remain largely more democratic than the rest of the world on average, but have still outpaced average declines among other countries, the New York Times reports.