If you haven't been living under a rock for the past two years, that's probably not much of a surprise. Still, a new report from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, a global nonprofit based in Sweden, offers a comprehensive look at the worrying trend of democratic erosion—a trend that has been helped along by the pandemic even though its roots go deeper.
"The world is becoming more authoritarian as non-democratic regimes become even more brazen in their repression and many democratic governments suffer from backsliding by adopting their tactics of restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law, exacerbated by what threatens to become a 'new normal' of Covid-19 restrictions," the IIDEA warns.
The number of countries that are becoming "more authoritarian" by the group's calculus is three times the number of countries that are moving toward democracy. This year is the fifth consecutive year in which the trend has been moving in that direction, the longest uninterrupted stretch of pro-authoritarian developments since the IIDEA started tracking these metrics in 1975.
That trend predates the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, but governmental responses to the virus have made things worse.
A number of democratic countries—the report specifically mentions the United States in this section—have implemented COVID measures "that were disproportionate, illegal, indefinite or unconnected to the nature of the emergency," according to the IIDEA report. Those include travel restrictions and the use of "emergency powers that sometimes sidelined parliaments."
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