European think tank puts US on ‘backsliding’ democracy list for the first time

US, EU face significant challenges as march of authoritarianism hastens, report warns

John Bowden
Monday 22 November 2021 18:49 GMT
Donald Trump fans storm the US Capitol on January 6 in a riot that left five people dead
Donald Trump fans storm the US Capitol on January 6 in a riot that left five people dead (REUTERS)

A European think-tank that examines the state of democratic ideals around the world said this week that the United States is experiencing a weakening of its democratic systems and risks sliding into authoritarianism.

The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), based in Sweden, released a report on Monday detailing the current climate for democracy and sanctity of political institutions in countries around the world. The report found that the number of countries drifting towards authoritarianism outnumbered those heading towards governments centered around human rights, political representation and civil liberties.

One of the report’s most worrying findings was an assertion that the United States is now among those nations headed away from democracy and towards autocracy.

“Many democratic governments are backsliding and are adopting authoritarian tactics by restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law, a trend exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” read the report.

“International IDEA warns against the grave and looming threat of disinformation and baseless accusations of electoral fraud, as seen in Myanmar, Peru and the United States,” it went on.

The report also found that several European countries including Slovenia, Poland and Hungary are seeing authoritarian tendencies intensify in and around government, while two countries in Latin America, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, were rare bright spots where progress was being made towards the strengthening of democratic institutions.

Other countries where authoritarian governments already exist, including Turkey, turned up their repressive efforts to control unrest and dissatisfaction among their populaces amid the Covid-19 outbreak which began last year, according to IDEA.

“The Global State of Democracy report is not a wakeup call, it’s an alarm bell. Authoritarianism advances in every corner of the earth. Universal values – the pillars of civilization that protect the most vulnerable – are under threat,” said Jutta Urpilainen, a member of the European Commission, in a statement on Monday.

The Stockholm-based group is hardly the first to warn about the potential for a descent into authoritarianism in the United States, particularly after the events of 6 January.

Many Democrats, Republican critics, political pundits and others have alleged that many supporters of former President Donald Trump around the country are involved in what has been characterised as a “slow-moving coup” that began with the defeat of the former president in the 2020 election and has continued even to this day as a gradual chipping away of confidence in US electoral systems.

The efforts many state Republicans around the country took to attempt to carry out Mr Trump’s efforts to halt and overturn his election defeat over unproven and false claims about election fraud have led some to question whether the same systems that held firm in 2020 and prevented him from contesting the results of an election with zero hard evidence that would prove fraud on a significant scale will do the same and remain strong if the former president runs for office again in 2024.

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