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The spread of the pandemic of autocracy
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At the time Russian President Vladimir Putin, described as the man behind the third wave of dictatorship, was preparing for a war of terror by crashing into the free democratic country of Ukraine, a study report had come out which deserves the world's particular attention. The Democracy Report 2022 released by the Varieties of Democracy (V-DEM) project at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden illustrates that the type and pattern of dictatorship is changing and that global leaders are dragging the world by use of force to more autocratic models. The report, compiled by 3,700 experts from 180 countries and after analysing 30 million data points, reveals the internal and external maladies that have plagued democracy around the world over the past decade and the damage they have caused. The study reveals the empirical facts that the very factors that were supposed to vitalise freedom and democracy were so hollow as to become the loopholes for their misuse and subversion. The V-Dem report is a direct reflection of the world gradually slipping into the abyss of dictatorship in many ways.

Sociologists and political analysts have already warned that the wave of dictatorship is strengthening globally and could lead to civil and international wars. The relevance of the WDM report is increasing as the new assessments of the situation in many countries, including India, continues to show that the world is moving in that direction. According to the report, the new hallmarks of authoritarian regimes are elimination of dissenting voices from democratic system, making electoral systems irrelevant, putting governance and administration of authority in the hands of those in power despite the judiciary and the legislature, and making social polarisation, misinformation and propaganda the official agenda under government supervision and blessing. The V-Dum Project warns that this is a catastrophe that will kill democracy and plunge the world into chaos.

India is one of the six countries in the world that are leading this transformation into dictatorship. The report says that India is becoming a sad example of how democracy and its distinguishing feature of exercise of franchise can be abused by dictatorships. Authoritarianism is steered by anti-pluralist parties in the six countries: Brazil, Hungary, India, Poland, Serbia and Turkey. The regimes of these countries that do not recognize pluralism are marked by a lack of commitment to democracy, a disregard for the rights of minorities, the demonisation of political opponents, and political violence. The ruling parties turn closed advocates of nationalism and impose their own arbitrary agenda. India has shifted from an elected democracy to an elected dictatorship since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014. In the ranking among liberal democracies, India has slipped 23 points since 2013 in the Liberal Democracy Index. According to the report, India has witnessed the most dramatic change in the last ten years of world's transformation to dictatorship.

The new mode of governance has now come to rule over 44 percent of the world's population, or 3.4 billion people. Together, 70 percent of the world is under autocratic rule. There are only 34 countries in the world ruled by liberal democracy. Although at the end of last year, elected democratic model existed in 55 countries, only 16 percent of the world's population could enjoy it in experience. The picture in 2011 was that elections, the rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of association declined in six countries, but increased in about 30 countries. But in 2021, this picture stands upended. While in 35 countries these indices of democracy turned critically damaged, only in ten countries did they survive without deteriorating. Regimes have been strangulating civil society organizations in 44 countries for the past ten years. In India, the picture of the steps to proscribe voluntary and philanthropic organisations using state apparatus is before us. In 37 countries, including India, the government has fully brought civil society bodies under its sway. Social polarization is at its extreme. It has become commonplace for dictatorial regimes to view opposition as threats and rein them in, subvert democratic norms and rules in the name of national security, alienate people from one another by creating an us/them binary, and spread misinformation including erroneous data through social media with government patronage to mislead public opinion.

But the only silver line in this dark time is that attempts of democratic advocates to resist this seemingly irresistible advance has not been completely thwarted. The popular uprisings against the deviation of democracy had been intensifying until two years ago. But with the onset of Covid pandemic, dictators were able to block that move. One can only hope that as the world begins to free itself from the grip of the pandemic, it will begin to leapfrog from the scourge of dictatorship. That hope alone is the antidote to current anxiety.

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TAGS:V-DEM Democracy Report 2022 India among six countries deterioration since 2014 
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