Global democracy under attack as states use Covid rules to crush civil liberties, the report says

Under attack from Covid restrictions, democracy around the world is losing the battle against authoritarianism, according to a new report.

The average global democracy score in Economist Intelligence Units 2021 Democracy Index recorded the largest year-on-year decline since 2010 and the global financial crash.

The index provides a snapshot of the current state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories – almost the entire population of the world – by measuring five key factors: elections, governance, political participation; political culture; and civil liberties.

In Europe, Spain led to a weak democratic decline across the continent, with Madrid being downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “deficient democracy”.

The United Kingdom fell two positions and 0.44 from its overall score in the index, approaching a “defective democracy” rating. France was already in the “defective democracy” group along with the United States.

Fears that the Covid pandemic will be exploited, particularly by authoritarian regimes to further erode civil liberties, appear to have been confirmed by the investigation.

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The authors, led by Joan Hoey, say that the negative effect of Covid-19 on democracy and freedom continues, with an “unprecedented withdrawal of civil liberties among both developed democracies and authoritarian regimes ”in the second year of the pandemic.

They say that closures, travel restrictions and the introduction of Covid vaccination passports for participation in public life have led to “the normalization of emergency powers, which have tended to remain on the law books” and have “accustomed citizens to a huge expansion of state power over large areas of public and personal life ”.

This year’s report is called “The China challenge”. It notes that although China is cementing its status as a global superpower, the world’s most populous nation has become less democratic and less free.

In addition, less than half (45.7 percent) of the world’s population now lives in a democracy of some kind, which is a marked decrease from 2020 (49.4 percent).

Even fewer (6.4 percent) live in a “full democracy”; this level is slightly lower from 6.8 percent in 2020, after two countries (Chile and Spain) were downgraded to “deficient democracies”.

Latin America suffered a major setback in 2021. The change in the region’s score in 2021 was the largest decline from year to year any region has experienced since the start of the Democracy Index in 2006.

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