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Democracy on the Decline?

Greta Scott

Posted on March 29, 2021 14:40

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March 10th was probably a date you had circled in your calendars for several months now. It, of course, marked the date of the much-anticipated V-Dem Democracy Report 2021. If you weren’t as excited about its publication as I was, let me fill you in. V-Dem is an independent research institute that measures levels of democracy around the world. This year, its Democracy Report was entitled "Autocratization Turns Viral." Not exactly the good news democracy-fans were hoping for.

This year's V-Dem Democracy Report opened with heart-warming statements such as “another year of decline for liberal democracy” and “pandemic backsliding looms”. It wasn’t a huge surprise to anyone familiar with trends in democratization, which granted is perhaps fewer people than I am making out. Organizations that measure global levels of democracy have been indicating a global decline for over a decade, and the pandemic, while perhaps not the final nail in democracy’s coffin, hasn’t done world democracy any favors. According to V-Dem, during the pandemic, two-thirds of all countries imposed restrictions on the media, and one-third of countries imposed indefinite emergency measures.

The latest of these measures has taken place in my home country, the United Kingdom. According to V-Dem, “autocratization typically follows a similar pattern. Ruling governments first attack the media and civil society, and polarize societies by disrespecting opponents and spreading false information, only to then undermine formal institutions.” Undermining civil society certainly sounds familiar. The British government is currently looking to pass the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which would reduce the ability to protest in numerous ways, including imposing noise limits on protests, making "intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance" an offense, and adding a prison sentence to damaging memorials. This is a clear attack on last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests which culminated in statues being pulled down by demonstrators. The Bill has been widely criticized, with 150 rights organizations addressing a letter to the government warning that it would be “an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens”. The bill has been met with protests in the historic protesting city of Bristol, which unfortunately have been marred by the violence of a minority.

For me, what makes this bill an even more blatant attack on democracy is the incumbent Conservative Party’s track record on respecting democratic norms. It was only in August 2019 that Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempted to illegally prorogue Parliament in order to prevent scrutiny of the government’s Brexit Bill and force the UK to leave the EU on time. And even before this date, it was Theresa May who spoke with contempt of a Parliament which she felt was blocking “the will of the people” by voting against her Brexit bill (in the largest defeat of a government bill in over a century). Before that, it was David Cameron who campaigned to scrap the Human Rights Act. It is understandable then, why I doubt the Conservative Party’s respect for democracy.

I am seriously concerned about my government's commitment to democracy, not least in the context of a global democratic decline. I condemn the violence currently taking place in Bristol, and I fear that it could delegitimize the protests against a bill that cannot, in the name of democracy, be allowed to pass.

Greta Scott

Posted on March 29, 2021 14:40

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Source: FOX News
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