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Democracy Report 2020: Autocratization surges, resistance grows

Cover of Democracy Report 2020. Credit: V-Dem

The V-Dem Institute, an independent research institute based at the Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has released its 2020 Democracy Report.

Main findings include:

  • Autocratization – the decline of democratic traits – accelerates in the world: for the first time since 2001, autocracies are in the majority: 92 countries – home to 54% of the global population. Almost 35% of the world’s population live in autocratizing nations – 2.6 billion people.
  • EU has its first non-democracy as a member: Hungary is now classed as an electoral authoritarian regime.
  • Major G20 nations and all regions of the world are part of the “third wave of autocratization.” Autocratization is affecting Brazil, India, the United States of America, and Turkey, which are major economies with sizeable populations, exercising substantial global military, economic, and political influence. Latin America is back to a level last recorded in the early 1990s while Eastern Europe and Central Asia are at post-Soviet Union lows. India is on the verge of losing its status as a democracy due to the severely shrinking of space for the media, civil society, and the opposition under Prime Minister Modi’s government.
  • Attacks on freedom of expression and the media intensify across the world, and the quality of elections begins to deteriorate. Attacks on freedom of expression and media freedom are now affecting 31 countries, compared to 19 two years ago. The Clean Elections Index fell significantly in 16 nations while improving in only twelve. Media censorship and the repression of civil society have intensified in a record 37 countries – eleven more than the 26 states currently affected by severe autocratization. Since these indicators are typically the first to move in a gradual process of autocratization, this development is an early warning signal for what might be yet to come.
  • Pro-democracy resistance grows from 27% in 2009 to 44% in 2019 amidst the autocratization surge. During 2019, citizens in 29 democracies mobilized against autocratization, such as in Bolivia, Poland, and Malawi. Citizens staged mass protests in 34 autocracies, among them Algeria, Hong Kong, and Sudan. 
  • New V-Dem indicators on Civic and Academic Space show that autocratization taints the whole society. Academic freedom has registered a conspicuous average decline of 13% in autocratizing countries over the last 10 years. The right to peaceful assembly and protest has declined by 14% on average in autocratizing countries. Toxic polarization, pro-autocracy mass protests, and political violence rise in many autocratizing countries, such as in Brazil and Poland.

Access the full report here