Wars and political polarization | Democracy suffers around the world

(Paris) Democratic standards have declined around the world in 2023 due to the spread of wars, authoritarian practices and the decline in the level of trust in traditional political parties, points out a study by the group The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) published Thursday.

As two more countries, Paraguay and Papua New Guinea, are classified as democracies in 2023, the global average of the index fell to 5.23 out of 10, from 5.29 the previous year, its level the lowest since the publication of the first study in 2006.

“This deterioration in the state of democracy worldwide is mainly due to negative developments in non-democratic countries, such as the resurgence of violent conflicts and authoritarian measures,” the report notes.

Among the 74 countries (out of 167 studied) considered democratic, only 24, representing barely 7.8% of the world’s population, are qualified as “complete democracies”, or “countries in which not only fundamental political and civil liberties are respected, but which also tend to be supported by a political culture conducive to the development of citizens.

The other fifty, from the United States to Israel via Brazil or Thailand, belong to “failing democracies”, where “free and fair elections are also organized and, even if there are problems (such as violations freedom of the media), fundamental civil liberties are respected,” according to the EIU.

Paraguay and Papua New Guinea joined this second category this year.

The other countries are divided between “hybrid regime” and “authoritarian regime”, according to an index calculated from five criteria: electoral processes and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.

Niger, with 29 places lost (141e place), and Gabon (-28, 146e), are the two countries that have suffered the biggest drops in the ranking. Both experienced a coup d’état in 2023.

Western Europe is the only region to improve its score, and “thus passes North America”, which does not appear at the top of the ranking “for the first time since the creation of the index in 2006”.

More and more countries are facing “a decline in trust in major political parties and leaders,” and succumbing to “‘culture wars’ of the kind that have long characterized the United States,” the report analyzes.

Western Europe, for its part, is said to be “undermined by a low level of trust in the government and polarized around the issue of immigration”.

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