The State of Democracy around the World - Seeker's Thoughts

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The State of Democracy around the World

Transparency in political processes, accountability of elected representatives, basic freedoms for all citizens, equal rights for women and minorities and high rates of voter participation are main factors for popularity of democratic system.

The world saw a huge wave of democratization after World War II. The newly-liberated states in Latin America, Africa and Asia adopted democratic forms of government after centuries of colonial subjugation. Today more people live under various forms of democracy than ever before.
More than 120 of the 192 countries in the world have some form of democracy in contrast to only 11 parliamentary democracies existed in 1941. This indicates the appeal of democratic ideas and systems.

Democracy is considered to be in waves, as it grew and reduced. This can be understood as given following-
First wave - The first wave is considered to be from 1922 to 1942 during which the number of democracy was at peak and then reduced to 12.
The first wave began in the early 19th century across North America and Western Europe in outcome of the American and French revolutions
The First wave of democracy began in the early 19th century when suffrage was granted to the majority of white males in the United States.
This continued until 1922, when Benito Mussolinirose to power in Italy.

Second wave – This started after World War II to 1970’s. 
The Second wave began following the allied victory in World War II, and crested nearly 20 years later in 1962 with 36 recognized democracies in the world. In mid1970’s again democracies reduced in number and there remained 30 democratic countries.

Third Wave-The Third wave began in 1974 and included the historic democratic transitions in Latin (Southern) America in the 1980s, Asia Pacific countries and regions (Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan) from 1986 to 1988, Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and sub-Saharan Africa beginning in 1989.

Fourth wave- In 2011 revolution took place in the Arab world.
The fall of the autocratic regimes particularly in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya had also led many political analysts to label the Arab Spring as the start of the new forth wave of democracy.

The Various Institutions, Indexes to measure democracy around The Globe:

According to the Democracy Index 2017, which is released by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the worst decline in the global democracies occurred in recent years. Not a single region recorded an improvement in its average score since 2016, and there was reduction in freedom of expression.

According to Freedom in the World, countries have suffered democratic backwardness. More countries fell into setbacks than those who achieved more democratic values. States that a decade ago seemed like growing democracies—Turkey and Hungary, for example— have slide into authoritarian rule. The military in Myanmar, a limited democratic since 2010, executed a shocking campaign of ethnic cleansing in 2017 and rebuffed international criticism of its actions.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), an inter-country organisation, tried to evaluate the state of democracy in the world in the light of such worrying claims. The Global State of Democracy Index (GSoD) looks at the trends in democratization from 1975 to 2017. With the help of a set of 98 indicators, IDEA aims to study the factors which threaten democracy throughout the world and those that make it strong and resilient. The study covers a variety of important indicators such as representative government, fundamental rights, and checks on the government, impartial administration and participatory engagement. These have many sub indicators for an in depth indices-based analysis

Democracy in South Asia

South Asia is home to 3 per cent of the world’s area and 21 per cent of the world’s population. It’s significant that 50 per cent of the world’s population living under some form of democratic rule resides in this region.

§  Representative government

§  When it comes to representative government, India and Sri Lanka have maintained relatively high scores. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan have had periods of non-elected regimes. The general trend in South Asia in this respect has, however, been positive.

§  Fundamental rights

§  With respect to ensuring fundamental rights, the region’s score matches that of Asia Pacific but it is slightly below the global average. At the country level, Afghanistan and Nepal have seen the most improvement. Sri Lanka and Pakistan saw a slight decline in the 1970s and 1980s.

§  India’s score has been stable since the late 1970s. However, a decline has been observed since 2015.

§  Gender equality

§  South Asia shows a steady improvement on the yardstick that measures gender equality with Nepal standing out. India’s score was better than the world average till 2003 but there has been a dip in the country’s performance on the gender equality yardstick since then.

Governments- South Asia has shown a steady increase from 1975 to 1994. Afghanistan, Nepal and Pakistan have shown the most improvement. Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka have remained relatively stable with scores in line with the global average.

In the yardstick on impartial administration, South Asia follows both the regional and global trends with no significant change, except in Nepal, which has seen a significant improvement.

Civil society participation has increased in India by leaps and bounds between 1978 and 2012 after which it declined drastically to fall below the average of Asia Pacific and that of the World. In 2017, it was the lowest since 1975.

India’s Status according to IDEA

§  India’s performance on the yardstick to measure media integrity was better than the global and South Asian average between 1994 and 2012. However, the country’s score has fallen below the global and Asia-Pacific average in 2017. Given that a free and fair media is crucial to a meaningful democracy, this is a worrying tendency.

§  The Election Commission has played an important role in conducting free and fair elections in the country. The Commission’s Systematic Voters Education for Electoral Participation Programme role has been crucial in this respect.

§  An independent judiciary is another reason for the resilience of democracy in India. The apex court has given judgments that keep a check on the government and ensure a transparent and accountable system.
In the last decade, there has been a significant dip in the India’s record on civil liberties, personal integrity and security, freedom of association, media integrity, gender equality and basic welfare.

Challenges To Democracy
1. World's leading autocracies like China and Russia have been growing while democratic government struggled. 
2. The spread of antidemocratic practices is growing as people are not aware that anti democracy will eventually leads to 'politicized courts, intolerance for dissent, and predetermined elections. 
3. Despite the democratic upsurge, there are significant challenges like poverty, inequality, gender injustice, nepotism and corruption.
4. Elected despots and authoritarian leaders are weakening democracies across the world.
5. One of the major challenges to democracy is people losing faith in it. There are many reasons for such disillusionment, including corruption, nepotism and unemployment. This often leads to people disengaging with key public policy issues which, in turn, makes those in power less accountable.