Worldwide democracy declined again in 2021, marking the 16th consecutive year for the drop and showing how countries such as China and Russia are "encouraging more authoritarian approaches to governance," according to a new Freedom House report.
"The leaders of China, Russia, and other dictatorships have succeeded in shifting global incentives, jeopardizing the consensus that democracy is the only viable path to prosperity and security," the organization said, reports Axios.
There is also trouble in established democracies such as the United States, the report says, as "internal forces have exploited the shortcomings in their systems, distorting national politics to promote hatred, violence, and unbridled power."
The report deemed Finland, Norway, and Sweden with top scores of 100, as the world's most free countries, with Eritrea, North Korea, South Sudan, Syria, and Turkmenistan as the least free.
The United States remained ranked as a free country, but its score of 83 was far below the scores from Finland, Norway, and Sweden, and below those of other places like the United Kingdom, at 93; Uruguay at 97; and Japan, at 96.
The annual report noted that the United States' score was a reflection on how the country's democratic institutions have "suffered erosion," as a result of "rising political polarization and extremism, partisan pressure on the electoral process, bias and dysfunction in the criminal justice system, harmful policies on immigration and asylum seekers, and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity, and political influence."
The document also noted the Jan. 6, 2021 protests at the Capitol, and said that former President Donald Trump's claims of election fraud "continued to pervade Republican Party discourse throughout the year, leading to intraparty tensions and the threat of political marginalization for Republicans who vocally rejected the claims."
The report shows that 38% of the world's population is living in countries that are "not free." This is the highest population of people not living in democracies, versus the 20% who are living in countries deemed "free and 42% in "partly free" nations.
One country, Ecuador, moved into the list of "free" countries after its smooth presidential transition. Chile was also listed as a land where democracy held firm amid social upheaval and the Ivory Coast was also noted as holding free parliamentary elections last spring.
Meanwhile, the report's authors said that there are leaders in some authoritarian systems who no longer attempt a "veneer" of democracy, including in Nicaragua and Russia, where "farcical" elections were held last year.
"Authoritarian leaders are no longer isolated holdouts in a democratizing world," the report said. "Instead, they are actively collaborating with one another to spread new forms of repression and rebuff democratic pressure." China and Russia are also becoming involved in failing regimes in Belarus, Myanmar, and Venezuela, the findings show.
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