Freedom in the World 2020
This report published by Freedom House details the relative state of democracy worldwide. It also includes recommendations on which to base policies that protect democratic institutions. Read the summary of the report here: https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/FINAL_FIW_2020_Abridged.pdf
KEY GLOBAL FINDINGS
Of the 25 largest democracies, India suffered the largest score decline. Continued aggressions against Muslims in the country have shaken the rule of law and threatened the secular and inclusive nature of its political system. Long viewed as a democratic counterweight to China in the Indo- Pacific region, the Indian government’s alarming departures from democratic norms could blur the values-based distinction between Beijing and New Delhi.
The Indian central government’s annulment of the semi- autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state, caused Indian Kashmir to experience one of the five largest single-year score declines of the past 10 years in Freedom in the World, and its freedom status dropped to Not Free.
Democratic processes in the United States are under threat, as shown through its failure to uphold a nonpartisan impeachment process, ensure the fair and equal treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and safeguard electoral integrity. At the same time, US foreign policy has been inconsistent on the deterioration of democratic institutions and respect for human rights abroad.
The growth of mass protests across a variety of political environments underscores the universality of the human desire for basic freedoms and good governance. In Free, Partly Free, and Not Free countries alike, people took to the streets to express discontent with existing systems of government and demand changes that would lead to better, more democratic outcomes. While striking in their numbers, the protests have frequently foundered in the face of resistance from defenders of the status quo. Progress is evident in some cases, but the ultimate outcomes are unclear, and the protests in general have yet to usher in a new period of global democratic progress.
KEY REGIONAL FINDINGS
Americas A hike in Santiago’s mass transit fares sparked widespread protests and a broader critique of the political system in Chile.
Venezuela remained in a political, economic, and humanitarian purgatory as Juan Guaidó, the interim president named by the opposition-controlled National Assembly, struggled to dislodge Nicolás Maduro, who claimed reelection in a fraudulent 2018 vote.
Legislative elections in the Philippines solidified majorities for allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen a campaign of extrajudicial killings. Soon after Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the brother of Sri Lanka’s former authoritarian ruler, was elected president himself, there were reports of a crackdown on journalist sand law enforcement officials who had investigated the Rajapaksa family for alleged corruption and human rights violations.
Longtime president Nursultan Nazarbayev transferred power to a hand-picked successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, through a rigged election in Kazakhstan, and the authorities used arrests and beatings to break up mass protests against the move.
In Russia, the ruling United Russia party won all of the year’s gubernatorial elections, largely by ensuring that viable opposition candidates were not allowed to participate.
In the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s replacement of the justice minister with a close ally raised concerns that he was attempting to block criminal charges for his alleged misuse of European Union funds, prompting the country’s largest protests since 1989.
Poland’s legislative elections laid bare the extent to which the ruling Law and Justice party had politically captured the state media, whose taxpayer-funded broadcasts leading up to the voting amounted to partisan propaganda.
Middle East and North Africa
In April 2019, the regime of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi orchestrated a constitutional referendum that extended the president’s current term to 2024, after which he can seek another six years in office.
Elections and governance in Iraq and Lebanon are distorted by sectarian militias, corrupt patronage networks, and interference from foreign powers—entrenched problems that stoked the frustration of protesters during 2019.
Ethiopia made notable strides under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, reforming restrictive laws and allowing previously banned political groups to operate openly. Still, internal conflict threatened the durability of these gains, and the 2020 elections will be an important test.
While it remains to be seen whether the military in Sudan will abide by its power-sharing agreement with prodemocracy protest leaders and cede control to civilian leadership ahead of elections in 2022, the Sudanese people have already experienced initial improvements in political rights and civil liberties.
Check out our discussion on the findings in this report on the forum here: https://www.biedsociety.com/forum/global-matters/international-affairs-overview